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Sheikh Imam ‘Issa

Iconic Dissident, Activist

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Date of Birth:

1918

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Abu El Nomros, Giza, Egypt

Place of Birth:

Why Featured?

Sheikh Imam is renowned for his politically charged music and staunch support for the Palestinian cause. His collaborations with poet Ahmed Fouad Negm produced influential songs that resonated with the struggles of the underprivileged and criticized political regimes in Egypt and the broader Arab world.

Brief bio

Sheikh Imam was a blind Egyptian musician known for his unique blend of music and political activism. His songs, often in collaboration with Ahmed Fouad Negm, served as a voice for the oppressed and a tool for political expression.

Major Milestones

Contributions

  • Early Life and Loss of Sight (1918-1930s): Born in 1918 in Giza, Imam lost his sight at one year old due to conjunctivitis. He was introduced to music at a young age and studied under Sheikh Darwish El Hariry​​.

  • Political Awakening (1945): Began addressing political corruption and British occupation in his songs after a short stint as a professional radio singer​​.

  • Collaboration with Ahmed Fouad Negm (1962): Met and formed a partnership with poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, leading to the creation of numerous politically charged songs​​...See More

  • Release of 'Ya Falastinia' (1968): Composed the pro-Palestinian song 'Ya Falastinia', which gained immense popularity in Palestinian refugee camps and among guerillas​​​​​​.

  • International Recognition (1984): Following the lifting of their travel ban, Imam and Negm performed concerts in France, Southwest Asia, North Africa, and Europe​​.

  • Transforming Egyptian Music Scene (1968): Alongside Negm, Imam transformed the music scene in Egypt by creating popular music that favored the lower poor working class and criticized the regimes of Nasser and Sadat​​...See More

  • Political Songs and Imprisonment: Their bold political songs often led to their imprisonment, but they continued their activism, even composing songs like "Nixon Baba" from behind bars​​.

  • Advocacy for the Underprivileged: Imam's music gave voice to the underrepresented lower class and impoverished people in Egypt​​...See More

  • Criticism of Egyptian Military and Political Regimes: Their songs boldly criticized the Egyptian army and political regimes, leading to their imprisonment for 11 years under Nasser​​.

  • Legacy as Folk Heroes: Imam and Negm are remembered as folk heroes and the "voice of the people," influencing a generation of thinkers and continuing to be relevant in regions with poor quality of life and wealth inequality

Date of Last Update: 
January 7, 2024

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