"But I did it. I changed a few words, and instead of Mubarak, I sung against the army, I called for civilian government. It was very easy, actually."
Two years later, it is new president Mohammed Morsi who is the target of Essam's rage, as well as the rage of so many others still demonstrating on the
streets of Cairo, Port Said and other Egyptian cities. For them, Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood backers are little better than the autocrats who came
"Even now, the songs I used to sing against Mubarak, I simply change the name to Morsi. The situation is the same. Nothing has changed, and that is why we
are still on the streets," he says.
Essam was not always a radical. As a pony-tailed student, rock music fan and amateur musician, he was greeted with some hostility in Tahrir when he first
arrived in 2011, with the hardened protesters sceptical of the motives of a young man with a guitar wandering into the middle of a revolution and playing
"You should have seen the way they looked at me," he says, "I thought people were going to attack me."
But the crowd soon warmed to him, and after a few days he found himself on a makeshift stage in Tahrir, playing to hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds
of thousands of people.
Two years on, Essam remains a celebrity in Cairo, known for his uncompromising stance towards Morsi, as well as the Egyptian army, who he regularly attacks
in his songs.
Ramy Essam. (Orlando Crowcroft)
On March 9, 2011, Essam was one of hundreds of protesters detained and tortured by the Egyptian military, who were trying to clear Tahrir Square.
"They tortured us very badly, especially me, they took off my clothes and beat me with sticks. Some soldiers and officers jumped on my back and head,"
Essam says, noticeably stiffening in his chair.
"Then they cut my hair with broken glass and electrocuted me until my back was burned.
"A lot of people were outside the museum, calling for me to be released, then they took me out the back door and put me in a taxi. They let me go."
After a brief stop with friends in Cairo, Essam went back home to Mansoura, where he recovered for ten days before heading back to Tahrir. But his
confrontations with the army did not stop there.
Since the revolution, he has been refused permission to leave Egypt to play gigs, most recently in January 2013 when he had to cancel a U.S. show because
he couldn't get an exit visa.
"There is a problem between me and the army," he says, acknowledging the understatement.
"Since I was tortured, I have changed my lyrics to target the army. I wrote a song especially for them, so it is very difficult for me to get permission to
He says he's only been allowed to travel three times since the revolution.
"Maybe they don't want me to go because they know I am not scared of anyone. Everywhere I go I will talk about what is happening in Egypt."