Ahmed Fouad Negm: Poet whose revolutionary work inspired decades of leftist protest against Egypt's ruling elite

 

Ahmed Fouad Negm was Egypt's poet of revolution, inspiring protesters from the 1970s through to the current uprisings with sharply political verses excoriating the country's leaders in the rich slang of colloquial Arabic. Negm, always seen wearing the traditional galabeya robes of the poor, tapped into the sentiments of Egypt's impoverished population, marginalised by the ruling elite.

Key to his poetry was his use of the Egyptian dialect, playing with puns, obscenities and rhyming slang straight from Cairo's slums or Egypt's long-neglected rural areas. Negm shot to fame in the 1970s and 1980s when his poetry was sung by the blind musician Sheik Imam Issa who played the oud. Their songs blasted Gamal Abdel-Nasser and his successor Anwar Sadat over the defeat to Israel in the 1967 war, then what they saw as a surrender with the 1979 peace treaty. The duo performed in coffee houses and for students, their songs becoming the soundtrack for student protests.

Negm saw a revival during the later years of the rule of Hosni Mubarak, whom he skewered with his harshest verses. That made him a star of the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak, and a new generation of protest singers put his verses to music and performed them in Tahrir Square. An avowed secularist, Negm turned on Mubarak's successor, Mohammed Morsi, and supported his removal in a coup in July. Negm was jailed for a total of 18 years for his political views under Nasser and Sadat.

"A judge once told me that my poetry was crude," he recalled. "I asked him: 'Is it more crude than what is happening in Egypt?' The judge laughed."

HAMZA HENDAWI

Ahmed Fouad Negm, writer: born 22 May 1929; married six times (three daughters); died 3 December 2013.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam