How an Egyptian pop-song became ‘more dangerous than coronavirus’

Date:

Famous Egyptian singer Hany Shaker slammed the song, and the entire Mahraganat genre, for being “immoral.” Since the ban, over 300 million users have seen it online.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
 

JUNE 6, 2020 08:55

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt (photo credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH / REUTERS)

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt

(photo credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH / REUTERS)

“If you leave me,” sing Hassan Shakosh and Omar Kamal in their new song Bent El-Geran (Neighbor’s Daughter), “I will drink alcohol and smoke Hashish” (both frowned upon by conservative Muslims). The song was swiftly banned after the two sang it on Valentine’s Day 2020 during a concert at Cairo Stadium. The ban was then expanded to include the entire Mahraganat genre of music, which depicts violence and the lives of the working poor, Haaretz reported on June 4.  

 

Famous Egyptian singer Hany Shaker, who is also head of the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate, joined the criticism by calling the lyrics “immoral,” Middle East Eye reported.  

An Egyptian official went so far as to justify the ruling by saying this song is “more dangerous than coronavirus!” The quote went on to become a headline in the Egyptian press which some criticized for its sensationalism, as there are currently roughly 20,000 known coronavirus patients in the country and 816 people have died. 

Online, the song was played 300 million times by users from all over the world, including Israel.  

Online reactions ranged from support of the ban, due to the song depicting a reality of dating, drinking and drug using, to pointing out that this incident is similar to attempting to censor hip-hop and rap music. Two genres which have come under heavy criticism for depicting violence and sex since their inception.

Others claimed it is a class-inspired decision, as the working poor are usually not among those calling the shots on national media.  

 

This is not the first time the people who sing for the lower classes of Egyptian society have landed themselves in hot water over their emotional lyrics.

The late singer Shaaban Abdel Rahim, who passed away in 2019, was much loved by the masses, and censored by the state, when he released songs about how much he hates Israel and the US. 

In the song Ya Aam Arab (The Arab People) the singer depicts then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon as pulling the strings of the US, even going so far as to claim his as the person responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks. The animated clip is deeply offensive and antisemitic, and that, too, can be viewed online.  

 

DJ Sadat, who is a rising star in the genre of Mahraganat, told the Guardian in 2013 that the reason he and his friends are so popular is because they are fairly young people, that can still address the issues that most teenagers and young people in Egypt care about.

Not only do the lyrics reflect their lives, youngsters are much more in tune to social media and consume most of their content from it, making the ban on national radio and television a merely symbolic act, with little influence to how they actually enjoy music. 

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