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Ramy Essam, whose song ‘Irhal’, was the theme song of the Egyptian revolution in 2011, performing at the World Village Festival in Helsinki, Finland on May 23 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

There were thousands of people walking hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, strolling through the smell of Asian, African and Turkish food as the vendors served delicacies on the plate with the speed touching the very limits of human capability. The sound of the bongo drum reached everywhere. The joy of the people was so striking that even the most dispirited must have felt the sun in their hearts just after a few steps amongst the cheerful and colourful crowd at the location, Kaisaniemi park in Helsinki on Saturday afternoon.

This year, the World Village Festival focuses on development and the regional focus is on the Middle East and Africa.

One of the afternoon’s highlights was the performance of Ramy Essam, the man who literally sang the people of Egypt into the revolution of 2011 at the Tahir Square. The revolution deposited the former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, who is now waiting for conviction on death row on charges of premeditated murder of peaceful protesters during the very same revolution,

Essam had switched his acoustic folk songs into Rage Against the Machine type of alternative metal. He sang mostly in Egyptian and he had the Finnish rapper Paleface featuring in a few few songs. Their collaboration worked smoothly and the crowd loved it.

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“People might throw bottles and rocks. Beware,” said one of the bouncers guarding the stage where Aziza Brahim, a talent originating from Western Sahara, was about to enter in a few minutes.

There were a handful of police guarding the stage as well. There had been a demonstration outside the festival, unrelated probably, but the aftermath was expected to reach the free festival premises, too.

Brahim stepped on the stage and, my goodness, she sang beautifully with influences reaching from flamenco to blues and songs of the traditional Sahrawi tradition.

I filmed and photographed Brahim keen on playing the congas, while ready to duck in any moment.

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But the rage never reached the peaceful festival, where the acts of violence are unheard in its long history reaching back to 1995.

Brahim finished after about 45 minutes. The crowd cheered and the bouncers and the police took a deep breath . . .

Can’t wait for the Sunday setting, when artists like Aurora, Mashour’ Leila and Orlando Julius & The Heliocentrics will light up the crowd of expected thousands.


The collaboration between the Finnish rapper Paleface and Ramy Essam was smooth. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today


Bahia Ayoubi, 23, from Lebanon, lost in the tunes of Essam. Bahia loves to dance to the songs of her fellow Arabs and can’t wait for the Lebanese artist Mashrou’ Leila to play on Sunday. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today


Soulful. That’s what Aziza Brahim’s performance of music from Western Sahara was during the late Saturday afternoon. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today


Visitors gathered all around Kaisaniemi park to mingle and listen to rhythms from around the world. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today


Thousands attended the festival during Saturday which will continue on Sunday. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today


[divider]World Village Festival[/divider]

Cultures from all over the world meet again in the centre of Helsinki on May 23–24 2015. The theme of the 2015 festival is development. The regional focus on this year’s programme is on Africa and the Middle East.

The festival offers world views and possibilities, as well as music, circus, dance, theatre, art and activities. It offers new perspectives on tolerant multiculturalism, development cooperation, global issues and expanding one’s possibilities for affecting everyday life.

The main organiser of World Village Festival is the Kepa, which is an umbrella organisation for nearly 300 development organisations or other CSOs working on issues concerning development and globalisation. Kepa itself is a politically and ideologically non-aligned organisation that operates with funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.