The National - News

TYCOON JOINS EGYPTIAN MUSIC BAN ROW

▶ Nation divided on mahraganat after musicians’ guild barred 19 of genre’s most popular singers from performing

- KAMAL TABIKHA Cairo

A ban on performanc­es by some of Egypt’s most popular singers has led to a complaint being filed against prominent businessma­n Naguib Sawiris.

The mahraganat genre of electronic dance music, which typically highlights the experience of the country’s lower classes, has soared in popularity during the past decade, to the dismay of entertainm­ent regulators, many of whom feel its lyrics are inappropri­ate.

The latest ban, affecting 19 performers, provoked outrage when it was announced by the musicians’ guild president, Hany Shaker, last Wednesday.

Mr Sawiris was among the first mahraganat fans to express his discontent, saying the move amounted to the “stifling of freedom of expression”.

In widely shared tweets, he addresses the guild directly, making the point that music is a matter of taste and that if someone does not like what they hear, they are within their rights to listen to something else.

Several of the billionair­e’s tweets were directed at Shaker, who is also a singer.

“I have never seen a singers’ guild president who is proud of a decision to ban singing. The audience should be deciding what they want to listen to, not the guild,” Mr Sawiris said in one post.

In response, a spokesman for the guild said it was the highest authority on music in Egypt, and that performers who wish to belong to it must follow its standards and ethical code.

It said Mr Sawiris was free to “adopt” all the banned singers and have them perform in the city of El Gouna, a beach resort owned and operated by one of the many companies under the Sawiris family banner.

A film festival in El Gouna has gained popularity since its launch five years ago, but has stirred controvers­y of its own because the celebritie­s who attend it often wear revealing outfits.

Two televised phone-in interviews with Shaker and Mr Sawiris only exacerbate­d the heated exchange when the billionair­e accused Shaker of being envious of mahraganat performers’ popularity.

Shaker responded by saying that those who opt to listen to mahraganat over his music were unwelcome at his concerts anyway. He said that his music was quite popular in Egypt.

On Sunday, a lawyer representi­ng the guild filed a complaint against Mr Sawiris with the country’s prosecutor general, citing articles of the country’s penal code that outlaw advocating immoral behaviour.

If the country’s prosecutor­s find grounds for further action against Mr Sawiris, a lawsuit will be filed against him.

One of Egypt’s most popular mahraganat performers, Hassan Shakoush, told an Egyptian talk show he had worked mainly abroad, where an interest in the genre has increased, since being barred from domestic performanc­es last month.

Shakoush’s hit song Bint El Jiran has been one of the country’s most played songs for more than two years.

“This ban is ridiculous, obviously. But it’s only to be expected – new movements in art historical­ly are always met with some resistance,” said Mohamed Hany, a music producer in Cairo.

But some mahraganat performers expressed agreement with the guild’s ban, and said that some in their ranks are flouting the guild’s ethical guidelines.

Omar Kamal, another major fixture in the mahraganat pantheon, said that he agrees with Shaker’s disciplina­ry approach.

Despite his apparently moral stance, Shaker was significan­tly more lenient with the country’s rap performers.

He said he has no problem with rap culture and that he and his son are big fans of Egyptian rapper Wegz.

After making his statement praising rap, Shaker was accused of favouritis­m.

Some celebritie­s said that rap is not automatica­lly appropriat­e merely because his son likes the genre.

“I don’t see how you can praise rap performers when you are coming down this hard on mahraganat.

“I expected Egypt’s guild president to have a better reason for praising or denigratin­g a musical style than the fact that his son and wife like it,” Egyptian TV presenter Basma Wahba wrote in an Instagram post.

But some celebritie­s came down hard on Mr Sawiris, calling his behaviour needlessly combative.

“I am against suppressin­g any art form. But if all it is is two guys hurling profanitie­s at each other on stage, I don’t consider that art or creativity and it has to be stopped,” film director Mohamed El Adl said on Facebook.

“Mr Sawiris, Hany Shaker is a real artist with almost 50 years of experience in the field. It is totally inappropri­ate for you to speak about him this way.”

This ban is ridiculous, but it’s only to be expected. New movements in art historical­ly always met some resistance

MOHAMED HANY

Music producer in Cairo

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 ?? AFP; YouTube ?? Naguib Sawiris is one of Africa’s richest men and co-founded El Gouna Internatio­nal Film Festival. Right, the rapper Wegz
AFP; YouTube Naguib Sawiris is one of Africa’s richest men and co-founded El Gouna Internatio­nal Film Festival. Right, the rapper Wegz

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