Egypt temporarily bans hugely popular ‘mahraganat’ singers

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Egypt’s state-affiliated musicians’ union on Sunday announced a temporary ban on electro-beat “mahraganat” singers, the cultural establishment’s latest move to crack down on the hugely popular genre.

Mahraganat, often known as “electro-shaabi,” or popular electro, relies heavily on computer-generated and synthesized beats, and has a wide reach.

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Some purists in socially conservative Egypt – a cultural powerhouse in the Arab world – view its blunt lyrics tackling topics including love, power and money as overstepping moral boundaries.

The union has “decided to temporarily suspend permits issued to mahraganat singers, in order to fully study their case (and) in order to preserve Egypt’s artistic value,” it said in a statement Sunday.

The suspension came as Egyptian singer Mustafa Kamel became the union’s chief.

His predecessor, Hani Shaker, had led a campaign against what he called an “unacceptable” genre, issuing a decision in February 2020 to ban mahraganat performers from clubs, cafes, hotels and concert venues.

“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 at the time.

The measure was unevenly enforced.

Union spokesman Tarek Mortada said Sunday that a committee would be formed in coming days to study the issue and determine a course of action, which could include a permanent ban.

The move, he said, is to “preserve public taste in the country.”

Mahraganat music has gone mainstream in Egypt, with its outlandishly named stars monetizing social media success after the country’s 2011 uprising.

With its roots in impoverished urban neighborhoods, it has often sparked the ire of critics as “low-brow.”

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