Censored Sounds: “The Camp” by PJ Harvey and Ramy Essam

by    /  June 28, 2017  / No comments

Egyptian rapper Ramy Essam’s music led him to become one of the lead figures at the Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution in the Spring of 2011. Several of Essam’s songs are based on slogans chanted at the Tahrir Square as the revolution evolved. Accompanied by Essam’s music, these slogans reached an ever broader audience, making them a powerful way of attacking ex-President Mubarak’s regime without resorting to violence. This music, however, made Essam himself a target of violence in Egypt. He was arrested and tortured by the Egyptian military in 2011. Essam fled to Malmö City of Refuge in 2014, and became the ICORN artist in residence there.

While in exile, Essam has continued to speak on critical issues. He collaborated with PJ Harvey to write and perform “The Camp,” released in June of 2017 to raise awareness about the conditions of children in the Bekaa Valley, an area of Lebanon densly populated with Syrian refugees. All net profits from the song will be donated to Beyond Association, a Lebanese Non-governmental Oragnization and Non-profit which promotes the interests of the country’s underprivilaged, including the children in Bekaa Valley. Beyond Association provides services such as access to education, healthcare, and psycho-social support mainly through art therapy, neuro-physiotherapy, and recreational activities.

The lyrics of the song, in English, and translated to Arabic by Amani Elmawed, are published below.


The Camp

[Verse 1: PJ Harvey]
I saw children through a fence
Standing by blue canvas tents
I called to them, they move like ghosts
Gliding silent and remote

A girl who smiled was a straight lie
Looked like a creature out of time
A grey boy burned by cigarettes
Pushed his scarred hands through the fence

When I turned, and tried to run
I saw ten thousand children
Were laid in lines wrapped in white sheets
Along a godforsaken street

[Verse 2: Ramy Essam]
Oh I wish my name had wings
So I could fly far away
And meet with people who would smile at me
Without asking me what country are you from,
How you look like, what color, gender, or religion you have
It doesn’t matter; we’re all human beings
And without war and without borders between us,
On this earth, there should be rights for everyone living
Yeah…
Yeah…

[Chorus]
I prayed an angel from the clouds
Would free the children, free them, oh oh
I prayed and waited for an age
I waited but no angel came

I prayed an angel from the clouds
Would free the children, free them, oh oh
I prayed and waited for an age
I waited but no angel came

I prayed an angel from the clouds
Would free the children, free them, oh oh
I prayed and waited for an age
I waited but no angel came

I prayed an angel from the clouds
Would free the children, free them, oh oh
I prayed and waited for an age
I waited but no angel came

[Outro]
I prayed an angel would come, but no angel came
I prayed an angel would come, but no angel came
I prayed an angel would come, but no angel came
I prayed an angel would come, but no angel came

“المخيم” (PJ Harvey و رامي عصام)

رأيت أطفالاً من وراء السور
يقفون بجانب خيمهم الخيشية الزرقاء
ناديت عليهم وهم كالأشباح
ينزلقون بصمتٍ ومن بعيد

فتاةٌ إبتسمت إبتسامةً كاذبة
كانت تشبه مخلوقاً منذ زمنٍ بعيد
و ولدٌ رماديٌ مغطى بحروق السجائر
يدفع يداه المتشققة من خلال السور

عندها أدرت ظهري وحاولت الهرب
رأيت عشرة آلاف طفلاً
ممددين وملتفين في الشراشف البيضاء
على طريقٍ بائس

[المقطع ٢: رامي عصام]
ياه لو كان إسمي له جناحين
وأقدر أطير بعيد
وأقابل ناس لم تشوفني بتضحك
ما تسألش بلادك من فين
شكل و لون أو جنس أو دين،
مش فارقين كلنا بني آدمين
ولا في حروب ولا في بيننا حدود
فيها الأرض حق كل الناس عايشين

[كورس]
دعوت أن يأتي ملكاً من السماء
أن يحرر الأطفال، أن يحررهم، اووه اووه
صليت وإنتظرت لوقتٍ طويل
ولم يأتي أي ملك

دعوت أن يأتي ملكاً من السماء
أن يحرر الأطفال، أن يحررهم، اووه اووه
صليت وإنتظرت لوقتٍ طويل
ولم يأتي أي ملك

دعوت أن يأتي ملكاً من السماء
أن يحرر الأطفال، أن يحررهم، اووه اووه
صليت وإنتظرت لوقتٍ طويل
ولم يأتي أي ملك

دعوت أن يأتي ملكاً من السماء
أن يحرر الأطفال، أن يحررهم، اووه اووه
صليت وإنتظرت لوقتٍ طويل
ولم يأتي أي ملك

[المقطع الأخير (Outro)]
دعوت أن يأتي ملكاً، ولم يأتي الملك
دعوت أن يأتي ملكاً، ولم يأتي الملك
دعوت أن يأتي ملكاً، ولم يأتي الملك
دعوت أن يأتي ملكاً، ولم يأتي الملك

Music Video Credits:
Video edited by Rick Holbrook
Photographs provided by Giles Duley
Studio footage provided by Ramy Essam

Sound Recording Credits:
PJ Harvey: Vocals, piano, shaker
Ramy Essam: Vocals, acoustic guitar
John Parish: Drums, bass, electric & acoustic guitars
Produced by John Parish
Recorded by Oliver Baldwin at J&J Studios, Bristol

All copyrights in this sound recording are vested in Hot Head Music, Ltd. 2017.
Photographs © 2015-2016 Giles Duley/UNHCR
All rights reserved

About the Author

Sampsonia Way is an online magazine sponsored by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh that seeks to protect and advocate for writers who may be endangered, to educate the public about threats to writers and literary expression, and to create a community in which endangered writers thrive and literary culture is a valued part of life.

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