On the Rebel Egyptian Poet Ahmed Fouan Negm

Elliott Colla is Director of Undergraduate Studies of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He sent us the following email, with the translation and videos we offer here, pertaining to the famous/infamous Egyptian poet, Ahmed Fouan Negm. The period photos of Richard Nixon’s trip to Egypt were also provided by Elliott Colla. The poem translation of Negm is by Ahmed Hassan and Elliott Colla. You will find more contributions from Colla in our alphabetical Authors index.

—Dispatches

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Dear Dispatches,

It occurs to me you may not know about this poet Negm that I’m talking about. You’d love him. He’s the most important vernacular poet of Egypt of the modern period. Plus, he’s an underclass criminal, anti-imperialist rabble-rouser, famous insulter of America and Israel, and prodigious partaker of the good herb. Here’s a hilarious poem he composed for Nixon’s visit to Egypt (during the height of Watergate!). The poet got people to laugh at the bootlicking of Sadat and his reactionary coterie. But none of this makes any sense until you hear the poet’s singer — the blind oud-player Sheikh Imam — put this to music. They were both arrested and put on trial for this song. As they were for many others. Most everyone you’d know in Egypt would know this song by heart — and it’s been remade again by a younger generation.

Elliott

 

Negm-“Daddy Nixon” (1974)