This week’s Free Ride* goes off the beaten path of pop, rock, country and gospel for some musing on an old Egyptian folk song, in honor of those thousands and millions of courageous protesters calling for freedom in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Just a few days ago Arab American Stephan Said (formerly known as Stephan Smith) released a recording of Aheb Aisht Al Huriya (I Love the Life of Freedom), a song written back in the early 20th century by Egyptian Poet Laureate Ahmed Shawqi. It was recorded and popularized in the 1930s, and Said learned the song from his Iraqi father. Said, whose folk music credentials include collaborations with the likes of Pete Seeger and Patti Smith, worked with legendary Grammy-winning producer Hal Willner to record the song for his upcoming album, difrent, due to be released in September. Given the roots of the song, I suspect many there in Tahrir Square have been singing these lyrics:
I love the life of freedom
like birds love being in trees
when I’m surrounded
by people I love
when the whole world is my home
I will sleep in peace wherever I am
I change with the world
with each new day
wherever my heart takes me
because my heart loves the life of freedom
The song is sung in Arabic, but in the video Stephan Said takes a page from Bob Dylan’s classic music video of Subterranean Homesick Blues, as he turns the pages of a notepad for us to see the English lyrics. The video begins with a statement from Said, as to why he is releasing the song now:
“I Love the Life of Freedom” is an anthem to global unity and equality that my father taught me. It’s been sung since the 1930s for countless civil rights movements across the Arab world. I’m releasing it today to be used freely by all those who are nonviolently working to build the international movement for a more just society. Because this is our moment; this is the moment in history when each of us must summon our highest, most poetic selves, to courageously step forward into the brilliance of the next world, a world that is already in the making. We want to live in freedom. We want to live in freedom.
For all those people in Liberty Square, may it be so.
*Free Ride is a Saturday blog from Stan Dotson that takes a different artist or song each week and muses on lyrics of freedom. You can click on the live links in the post to hear the music referenced in the blog. If you have a favorite “freedom” song (it could be any song that has the word free or freedom in it), feel free to suggest it in the comment box below. As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.