Singing to Express Hopes, Political, Social and Cultural Issues


Tactical Aim: 
Country or Region: 

The Choir Project is an open workshop that operates under the name Cairo Choir Complaints to strengthen freedom of speech through art and singing. During a one-week workshop, young men and women come together. They discuss their complaints regarding their lives, then they transform those complaints into lyrics. They compose and sing their poems in live shows, although many of them are not skilled musicians or songwriters. The purpose of these shows is to give an equal space to all people to express their opinions.

After this experiment, Cairo Choir Complaints became The Choir Project to be a platform for speaking out about problems, hopes, ambitions, and the social, political and cultural events in Egypt and in the Arab world. People gather to speak, to express, to criticize, to talk about what they have in common, and their differences.

In 2010, twenty-five women and men of different backgrounds in Egyptian society started a musical workshop, Cairo Choir Complaints, without previous experience in music or theater. In an intense week-long workshop, the participants shared their opinions regarding the current events in Egypt, as well as complaints, personal dreams, general fears, jokes, and international issues. Then those personal opinions turned into poems, which were then composed by the participants. The group was trained to sing their poems by fine art artist and playwriter Salam Yousry. Later, the group performed the Cairo Choir Complaints show, which was open to the public free of charge.

After the success of Cairo Choir project, the name of the project changed to Choir Project, and was adapted in different parts in Egypt and in the Arab world, including Jordan and Lebanon, as well as a workshop abroad which worked with the Egyptian communities. People gathered and sang their political, cultural and critical opinions rather than talking about it. Later, those songs were produced and some of those shows were uploaded to Youtube to reach as many people as possible.

The project became a platform for sharing opinions and transforming the public issues to a group song that chanted about the political climate, especially after the Arab Spring.

The Choir Project sprung a variety of workshops, like The Choir Ads, The Choir el-Amthal (proverbs), Eih Al-Abarah (What’s Going On) Project, which started after the Maspero Demonstrations in Cairo. Eih Al-Abarah workshop included 120 Egyptian youths, as well as The People’s Choir.

The Choir Project welcomes everyone to join and to participate, disregarding their political, social and cultural background. Many had seen the project as a social experiment and they framed it in a narrow path to raise awareness among people and to open the road to all sects of society to express their thoughts and burdens and to be critical to the reality around them.

The Choir Project is an independent project and is not exclusive to a certain group of people. The Choir Project is open to everyone and will go on even if an individual or a group drops out.     

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 
The success of the tactic comes from its inclusive and open nature, which welcomes people from different political, cultural, and religious backgrounds.
The Choir Project utilizes a tactic that is effective in creating a space for people from all backgrounds to come together and express their grievances. It allows individuals to employ their freedom of expression in a creative way, while also providing a safe and healthy outlet for people to let go of anger and frustration they have been holding on to. 
The workshop aspect of the tactic is a necessary component to bring people together and find commonalities between diverse groups. It promotes an air of understanding and acceptance, providing an important counterpoint to the otherwise divided society in which the organization is situated. 
Similar tactics have been successfully adopted in other countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon. Yet, it may be less successful in regions where freedom of speech is more restricted, or conversely, in highly democratic societies where freedom of speech is often taken for granted.