Egyptian Musicians Syndicate sets new conditions for authorising Mahraganat singers

Eslam Omar , Sunday 23 Oct 2022

The Egyptian Musicians' Syndicate decided on Sunday that Mahraganat and Rap singers seeking to obtain a permit for public performances should form bands of at least twelve authorised musicians.

Mostafa Kamel
Singer and songwriter Mostafa Kamel speaks to artists and media at the conference attended by many of Mahraganat singers as well as reporters for many local and regional newspapers and TV channels, on Sunday 23 October at the Musicians Syndicate s headquarters in Cairo


The decision puts more pressure on  these artists.

These artists, who are known for their solo performances that are usually accompanied by only playback or minus-one tracks, now face new challenges.   

The syndicate’s board headed by newly-elected president Mostafa Kamel met on Sunday some of the famous artists representing this popular but controversial genre. The meeting was held at the syndicate’s headquarters in Cairo and ended with laying down a number of new rules.

“You have earned a lot of money but there are many members of the union that need work,” said Kamel to the Mahraganat singers who attended the conference.

Among the attendees were Mahraganat stars Hamo BikaHassan Shakosh3enba, Essam Saasa, Ortega and others but not everyone agreed with the new decisions.

“My work is like rapping, my style of music does not require live musicians,” 3enba said during the conference.


Authorisation and Respecting Values

After taking the required tests, non-union Mahraganat singers will have to sign a pledge that they will abide by the new conditions. Otherwise they are liable to fines, suspensions or even permanent bans.

In order for Mahraganat singers to be authorised to perform, they should make sure that the lyrics of their songs do not "contradict Egyptian values and ethics”. They also have to obtain permission from the Culture Ministry’s Central Authority for the Censorship of Works of Art.

“You must know that you are our sons,” Kamel told the Mahraganat singers. He added that Mahraganat singers shall no longer be oppressed, terrorised or compelled to pay bribes. Kamel went on to say that the singers had to respect their homeland’s values and ethics and be mindful of the new generations. Otherwise, he said, they will "never sing again or even touch a microphone”.

The performers, concluded Kamel, must vow to preserve “the Egyptian identity and artistic leadership, as well as the societal values, customs and traditions”.

The syndicate will also apply the same rules to any concerts they organise abroad, and will oblige artists to request the syndicate's approval before traveling for any concerts outside Egypt.


Mahraganat: hullabaloo or festivals?

Kamel also attacked the label Mahraganat and instructed the singers to refrain from using that label in any shape or form.

The genre name Mahranagat is listed on all global music platforms, such as YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and Anghami, which curate dozens of playlists for its stars. Sometimes the genre is referred to as Electro-Shaabi.

The word Mahraganat –  originally derived from Persian –  can be translated into hullabaloo or sounds and noises that accompany happy occasions. It is also used to refer to artistic festivals.

“I don’t want to hear this word anymore. As far as the syndicate is concerned, you fall under one of only two categories. You are either Shaabi singers or vocal performers. The vocal performers category will also include Rap and Jazz singers [sic.],” said Kamel during the conference. Syndicate board members, however, placed Rap singers under a third category.


Too many battles?

Sunday’s decisions, which came a week after a temporal ban was announced for the Mahraganat singers, included the introduction of other new rules.

The new rules are likely to stir up controversy among many artists, critics and social media commentators just as the ban had done. The ban on these artists had made headlines on various prime-time talk shows last week.

Despite gaining billions of streams for their songs on all music platforms, songs by Mahraganat and Rap singers have been criticised for promoting drug-use, illicit sex and violence.

Kamel, 52, who was just elected on 11 October, is set to finish the term of former president Hany Shaker, who resigned following a dispute between Shakosh and a percussionist who is also a member of the syndicate.

Shakosh apologised once again to the percussionists during Sunday’s conference, and was backed by Kamel.

Meanwhile, the syndicate’s new president launched another battle after banning a number of board members and employees on account of bribery allegations. Among them is suspended secretary general Ahmed Ramadan, who fired back by suing Kamel for libel and questioning, also in court, the procedures that led to Kamel’s election.


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