“I adore the sea, like you, my beloved, lovingly, and the hours of your dress are crazy.” Then Muhammad cries on the Alexandria stage in front of the audience in a party he recently performed. We think he’s crying over his recently deceased former German player and guitarist Roman Bunca, but it seemed like he was crying far beyond the lamentation of a deceased friend.
There is no doubt that Muhammad Munir’s lyrical journey bore the hallmarks of our generation and was part of our identity in the eighties and nineties, then suddenly confused us, and he may have confused us even more among those who passed.
What was the journey of this brown singer, who was the star of a promising era, to end up crying and confused on stage?
I adore the sea, your dress, my love, is loving, and your hours are crazy.” Then Muhammad cries on the Alexandria stage in front of the audience in a party he recently performed.
Muhammad Mounir arose with the beginning of the era of openness, that is, with the beginning of the change of economic policy in the era of Anwar Sadat from the socialist model to the capitalist and free economy. Mounir emerged in a foggy era, during which many felt alienated. Sentiments weakened, pragmatic economic policies were replaced, and the identity of the “pocket merchant” prevailed. In the midst of this upheaval, after almost 40 years of socialism, one quickly gets along with him, as if he resembles them. Overwhelmed by the lost “between revolution and wealth.” A thin brown boy with a sweet voice came to Cairo from the far south, looking for a place in the art scene.
Muhammad Munir’s beginnings quickly attracted him to the youth group. Most of his audience was from the opposition, university intellectuals and the youth of the provinces from the middle class. They saw in the southern boy an expression of their anger and revolution through a new kind of art that mixed Egyptian authenticity with internationalism, with completely new meanings on their ears.
Even his beginnings were similar to them, as he started at the “Wadi El-Nile” cafe in the center of Cairo.
He sang for Sheikh Imam and Ahmed Fouad Negm, and most of his songs had a revolutionary character, and Munir was calculated on the left movement, although he did not express it explicitly, and young people followed him from university to university began to move, as he was the new voice of the revolution. During that period, the first album, “Alamouni Einky,” was produced in 1977, in collaboration with “Sonar Company,” which was her first collaboration with a young generation.
At the beginning, Munir faced a dilemma, people’s taste had not yet changed from the color that was common at the time, the remnants of the era of Abdel Halim Hafez and Umm Kulthum were nesting in the ears, and official institutions still handle the production operations themselves. His first album, “Alamouni Einky”, was not a resounding success. But those who discovered his existence saw in him the person awaiting that new stage.
Spread the taste of revolution
Then comes the resounding success of “Windows 1981”. All who associated with him felt as if they were seeing life through the windows. And they began to wonder who is this brown boy with friendly and strange features at the same time, a boy who looks like the Nile and whose voice is similar to nature.
People began to see a new and unique situation, words that reflect rebellion, freedom and vague aspirations. The words are not about love or separation, and at the same time carry a patriotic and emotional meaning. As Ibrahim Issa describes, “People knew no one to sing for trees, houses and places. His songs were part of the rebellion of a generation searching for itself. And Munir’s fan base is expanding even more.”
Convey the feelings of interconnectedness in “Come, let us join our names.” He smoothly expressed the similarities of the Egyptians’ houses in “The Taste of Homes”, and they gathered on the song “Bakkar” at the time of breakfast, and the song “Eshk al-Banat” on social occasions such as weddings and birthdays.
He was also similar to them in his tragedy, the one who died his middle brother and companion Farouk, who introduced him to the world, and Munir cried in his lament with “Your song in the midst of the crowd, which the heart of the night with joy, heal my wounded heart.” And before that in 2006, when his older brother died, He sang: “How does the relative of our sorrow pour honey on bitter?”
He even expressed their moderation in the eighties and nineties in the face of the then wave of extremism. According to Ibrahim Issa, his songs were “the voice of resistance against extremism and the Salafist and Brotherhood tide in universities at that time.”
Songs like “Hadouta Masriya” and “Tafa El Nour Ya Bahia” became revolutionary icons par excellence, the album “Innocent” in 1987, and others around the same theme. Suddenly, they saw Muhammad Munir for the first time in 2009 at a party for the armed forces in the presence of Mubarak, and after the ceremony ended, Mubarak shook hands warmly, so that his audience was confused. And questions have become about that shift in his positions. Then they saw him compete again the following year.
Although Munir is credited with the opposition, he did not declare it in advance, and he did not express his opinion explicitly about Mubarak or any president, and he always leaves the public to test his words, each with its imagination. No one knew what he meant in the song “Al-Laila Ya Samra”, Egypt or his beloved. But at the same time, his songs can still express the deepest aspirations of those who hear them.
A song like “How” became a symbol of support for the participants of the January revolution, although he wrote it a year and a half before the revolution and which is said to have been originally written for the purpose of the Gamal Mubarak candidacy campaign. Even the song “If our hero dreams, we die,” became a slogan to confront humiliation and defeat until the January Revolution.
Everyone felt that from 2008 Munir seemed to be entering a state of stability and so did his audience, and they took care of that by meeting Mubarak, and he stayed in that region for a long time, so that the new generations no longer know about him except that he “the singer is what adults hear.” Then he released an album “O People of Tarab and Arabs” in 2012, and it seemed that he instructed his audience to wake up and with them a new audience, he too has a difference in Munir seen. He also returned with this theme, which became revolutionary or emotional in many ways.
Nobody mentions the Mubarak incident, except rarely.
With the new album, he was able to find a place among the new generations, and this is what German ex-player and guitarist Roman Bunka said, “It’s amazing that Mounir is older now, but the younger generations still love him , there’s something young about him, and that doesn’t usually happen.” As for Munir himself, he saw that his ability to combine contradictions was one of the factors in his persistence: “In song, if you can express people’s sorrows and their joys. Whoever can express the two extremes, countries and what is in between, is a person we all love.”
end of the journey
Munir did not stay long in the apparition area. This time, the public saw a big shift in Munir’s position, and questions about a change in his orientation gradually increased, and the matter began with the song “Prejudiced”, which they saw as an implicit statement of bias to the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and then with his statements asking him to stand behind him.
Then it feels like it’s dulled. It did not cause the great confusion caused by his old position with Mubarak. It faded more when he turned to making propaganda songs for the police, such as the song “Daylin and Heroes of Men”, and no longer meets that old noise, until you feel as if he has re-entered a steady state did, with his audience.
In a way similar to that stage, we began to see age and perhaps illness weighing on him, such as his appearance in a wheelchair at the opening ceremony of the Arab Music Festival at the Opera in 2019, due to a herniated disc. News of his illness became frequent. But from time to time he raises another mild controversy, such as the time when the festival singer Mostafa Enaba performed on stage, despite the decision to ban him from the Musicians Syndicate.
Until we saw him crying at a party in Alexandria a few days ago, he was mourning his late friend “Bonka”, but you get the feeling that he’s not grieving his friend as much as he is grieving that condition our features shaped and confused us as much as it shaped us.