THE COPTS MUST CREATE THEIR OWN MUSIC AND DO AWAY WITH ARAB MUSIC
A Coptic musician from a fabric from the 6th century
Literature and music are essential requirements for any living society – man does not only live by bread but by literature and music too. That is why all nations have been very keen about promoting and protecting their own literature and music, for these two express the soul of a nation as much as they make it up.
And as in literature, so in music – no one can live in a vacuum of literature or music. A nation that neglects or abandons its literature and music will risk the literature and music of others to encroach on its cultural space and occupy it. The invading literature and music are often those of the nation’s enemy that manages to control its political and cultural life. It was, therefore, extremely credulous and silly of our forefathers of the seventh century who witnessed the Arab invasion of Egypt and stayed passive to think that giving up their political sovereignty will not be followed by surrendering their culture, with its language, literature, music, customs, laws, and even religion.
But what was lost is not lost forever – the flame of cultural resistance which our ancestors had hoped to ward off Arab and Islamic culture still lives. The Copts, resisted politically at certain points of their history, such as during the Bashmurite uprisings in the 8th and 9th centuries, but they constantly and continuous resisted culturally. We lost our language, literature and music but not completely. We can resurrect all these. What are needed are the will and the desire to continue the resistance against Islamic and Arab culture.
We in Coptic Nationalism call upon the Copts not only to revive our language and create new Coptic culture, but to detach themselves from Arabic music and create their own – a music that reflects the Coptic soul and nourishes it; a music in Coptic, for the Copts and by the Copts. And with music, folklore dance always comes: we must develop our own dancing, and our own national dress. It is appalling to see our youth dancing Arab dances, such as belly dancing, on the tunes of a ‘Adawiyya or a Saad al-Sagheer or a Amr Diab.
To those who say, Halim or Kalthoum are universal musical figures and they appeal to all, we say listen to them, as you listen to Sinatra or King, and enjoy them if you will, but that does not negate the fact that their music is not yours – create your own, and help to enrich the world with your own creation.
A last caution: when we talk about Coptic music we don’t mean only religious music, such as the hymns, but all noble music that expresses the religious and the temporal: we must develop our love songs, songs celebrating courage, motherhood, friendship, beauty of nature, mood, and freedom. And we must do that in Coptic.
Copts at home, in happiness or sadness, or when they gather to celebrate, such as in their weddings and parties, should sing in Coptic out of the creation of their own souls – songs of life and hope.
Those who don’t want Copts to sing or dance from a religious point of view, however the song is noble and the dancing decent, ought not to take an opposing stance, for they cannot stop a people from either singing or dancing – and as no nation lives in a musical vacuum, if you don’t develop your own music, upon which you have control, other peoples’ music will creep into your space and force you to sing their songs and dance to their tunes.