What Came First: the Chicken or the Mahraganat?

Picture the British population, with all their glories, their English Breakfast teas, their Harry Styles and Sam Smiths, their queens and princes, and of course, their frequent holidays to Spain. Now picture that same population, but instead of 20% of it below poverty line (not a great statistic to begin with), make that double.

Now tell that same population not to listen to rap and grime.

glastonbury2019 GIF by Glastonbury Festival

Tell that population to only listen to Adele’s ballads on their commutes to their 3rd job of the day. Tell them to only plug their earphones in to listen to Elton John belt out songs about love right after they’d been belted by abusive husbands. Tell them to stick to listening to Dido singing about white flags while they’re waging wars with cruel employers and crueler streets.

While you’re at it, take their 1% illiteracy rate and hike it up to 27%. And hey, why not take their 3.8% unemployment rate and nudge it all the way up to 11.44%? And for the cherry on top, make every man, woman and child in England move to the city of London.

Are you picturing the aftermath? Can your imagination fathom the squalor, the dirt, the descending values? Good, keep those in mind.

Now tell your new population to keep their mouths shut, their eyes down, and their hands to themselves. Tell the uneducated, over-worked, illiterate new citizens of Britain to be respectful, not to say the F word, and preferably only listen to Beethoven. And if they want to venture out into the world of music, restrict them to only creating songs for the 5% that comprise the higher upper class, lest they – God forbid! – offend them. Put a tax on their anger and frustration, and make them pay fines every time they let a negative emotion out.

Ban all urban, rap, hip hop and grime music from being played in public places. And ban every urban, rap, hip hop and grime artist from appearing on stage. Take away their voice, and expect them to follow the same format that white, privileged, and multi-millionaire Ed Sheeran follows.

And to justify your stupid, elitist actions, blame the rappers for the overwhelming corruption in the over-populated, under-educated, over-worked, and under-appreciated population. Try to gather up the audacity to publicly claim that, without those evil artists and their demonic lyrics, that same population would be living in peace and harmony with zero sexism and zero violence.

Now, please, please tell me I’m not the only one who sees the absolute absurdity of this situation.

Sadly, the statistics and percentages I just used aren’t a figment of my over-active imagination, it’s the truth that 100,000,000 Egyptians represent right now. And yes while the statistics are certainly looking up more and more as the years go by, the silencing of the lower classes, or anyone who upsets men in powerful positions, is still very much a thing of the present.

If you’re going to blame Mahraganat, a “low class” genre of Egyptian music, for the corrupt morals of Egyptian youth (I’m looking at you, Hany Shaker), then you need to come out of hiding and take a walk through the Egyptian streets a little more often. I implore you to live a day in the life of those uneducated singers’ lives and see the world through their eyes. Put aside your school and university degrees, your parents’ money, your lovely house in its lovely safe street with its lovely neighbours, and try to write a happy song.

And yes, of course I turn my nose up at the sexist lyrics and the violent references in those Mahraganat songs. Of course I see the error in their ways and wish for cleaner mentalities. But I also acknowledge my privilege. I won’t comfortably sit on my high horse, surrounded by my higher education degrees and tokens of the middle class upbringing I was lucky enough to be born into and judge words coming out of mouths that never had the same silver spoons I did.

And let’s be honest, which one of us heard “Bent el Giran” and didn’t want to shake their hips to its sleazy lyrics and over-produced beats right there and then?

Over the past couple of years, Mahraganat songs have embedded themselves into the intricately woven canvas of the flourishing Egyptian culture – with no class left unturned. No matter how hard anyone tries to get rid of them, they are here to stay and are as resilient as our stomachs are after a delicious koshary from a questionable street cart.

If you want to get rid of a genre, you’d better address the struggles that birthed it. While we don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg, we definitely know which came first in this situation – and it wasn’t the Mahraganat.

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