Culture Trips

The controversial street music that won’t be silenced

El Tarzi argues that the mainstream market has exploited Mahraganat as a source of profit while curbing its performers creativity. “The market embodied by the syndicate will not allow these singers to achieve. Hence it started to look down on them and force them to have permits,” she says. However, she asserts that Mahraganat singers should be dealt with like any other performers. “We should not approach them in a romanticised classist manner which sees them as slums residents or simple thriving artists.” 

In its attacks on the genre, the syndicate has stated it is considering asking YouTube and Soundcloud administration not to publish any songs without permissions. El Tarzi says that not having control over performers’ use of these platforms is a headache for the syndicate. “They have the right to grow, be more financially [successful]. They are artists like any other artists. They can also practice self-censorship or self-preservation in order to be approved and to be able to enter the market,” says El Tarzi.

Back to Saied and Mohamed, who are still to release their debut song. The duo thinks of success stories of Mahraganat singers like Dokdok and Shakhoush as an inspiration. “They started from nothing working as vendors or freelance musicians and now millions of people in Egypt and abroad listen to their work.” Like Dokdok, they are waiting for the moment to take the stage and sing their songs. Recently, they participated in producing a campaign song for a parliamentary candidate who eventually lost.

“He lost but the song is still catchy and can be heard in several tuk tuks in Mataryea [their district],” Mohamed says. “Banning [Mahraganat] will make it more popular and will make people listen to it more and more.” As Dokdok awaits his syndicate papers to be issued, he hopes that the authorities take them seriously. “They are in power and they can ban us. However, they can ban concerts and shows, but they cannot ban the music or singing.”

*Some names have been altered

Additional reporting by Omnia Farrag

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