Egypt's wave of censorship takes aim at street music

A ban was issued on a popular genre of street music.

Singers of mahraganat, which literally translates to "festivals" in English, were earlier this week banned from performing by the Musicians Syndicate -- a union that is responsible for issuing permits to performers. It operates under the auspices of Egypt's culture ministry.

In the video for "Bint Al-Giran" (The Girl Next Door), which has been viewed on YouTube more than 115 million times since its release in early December, a man threatens to "drink alcohol and smoke hashish" if his lover abandons him.

"Mahraganat songs fall well below the standards of this country. Those songs rely on sexual suggestiveness and inappropriate words, which are totally rejected … how can we protect our children from that?" Shaker said in a television interview with MBC Masr satellite channel.

Mahraganat, which typically involves fast-paced and loud beats, is hugely popular among young, working class Egyptians, but has also made an impact on the country's music industry, and the genre is now commonplace at weddings and parties thrown by the younger members of the elite.

It's not clear how damaging the ban could be on the future of mahraganat, but a spokesman for the Musicians Syndicate believes the union has what it takes to enforce it.

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