March 31, 2020

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Egypt bans popular "mahraganat" music because some lyrics are too racy – "more dangerous than coronavirus"

From France 24:

The union of Egyptian musicians has banned performances by singers of popular street music after the lyrics of a chart-topping song were deemed too racy for the conservative country.

The ban announced Sunday targets singers of mahraganat (Arabic for festivals) which has its roots in impoverished Cairo suburbs and spread after Egypt’s 2011 uprising that ousted a longtime autocratic president.

Earlier this month the song “Bint al-Giran” (The girl next door) reached over 100 million views on YouTube and was the second most played hit on SoundCloud, the do-it-yourself streaming platform.

On Valentine’s Day, crooner Hassan Shakoosh performed his hit at a packed Cairo stadium to tens of thousands of fans.

But the song’s lyrics — “I drink alcohol and smoke hashish” — sparked the ire of the union, which reflects the views of authorities and takes orders from the culture ministry in the conservative Muslim majority country.

The head of the musicians union Hany Shaker was quick to react and on Sunday banned mahraganat singers from performing at clubs, cafes, hotels and concerts.

“This kind of music which is loaded with sexual innuendo and offensive language is completely unacceptable. That’s why we have pulled the plug on it once and for all,” Shaker said.

A statement by the union said “legal proceedings” would be lodged against establishments that host the performers.

100 million views on YouTube and the Egyptian culture ministry thinks they will be able to ban it? There might not be any public performances but you can be sure that fans will continue to listen.

Here is Shakoosh performing the song on TV in January:

But Shakoosh’s manager caved to the censorship.

The manager of Shakoosh apologised.

“We are very sorry for our mistake and respect the union’s decision,” manager Camba told AFP on Monday.

He said the lyrics which offended public sensibilities were played at the stadium because of a technical glitch.

Arab News adds:

Egyptian Parliament spokesman, Salah Hasaballah, described the mahraganat singers as “more dangerous than the new coronavirus.”

Other MPs said the music should be banned “to protect public taste” while some politicians called for a less heavy-handed approach by urging singers to select their lyrics more carefully in accordance with morals and good taste.

MP Abdel-Hamid Kamal filed a report to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal calling on the Egyptian Minister of Culture Inas Abdel-Dayem to hold a session to discuss what he described as “low-taste art” and how it affects society. In his report, Kamal said that the spread of mahraganat music could have a negative impact on future generations.

Member of the media and culture committee in Parliament, novelist Youssef El-Kaeed, backed Kamal saying the music “mutilated” public taste and spread undesired types of arts.

Yes, a country where women are routinely sexually harassed and attacked in public is saying that lyrics about hashish are too immoral.

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