Some songs are called a "one-hit wonder," and to many, this title applies to the latest Egyptian hit Bent El Geran ('The Neighbors' Daughter', if you care to know the name in English).
Sung by duo Hassan Shakoush and Omar Kamal, the song didn't earn the title for its unique sound but for the state of controversy and disruption it has created in Egypt. The frown was so severe that a ban on that type of music was introduced in the country.
Shakoush and Kamal, who specialize in Mahraganat (meaning 'festivals') songs - a type of shaabi or folklore music combined with electronic beats - released Bent El Geran and gained phenomenal success overnight on Dec. 9, 2019.
From the ghetto neighborhoods of Egypt, a unique music style saw the light around 10 years ago. A style created from free mixing applications found on the web, a bunch of random beats, and heavy auto-tune. Focusing on the many societal, political, and economic issues Egyptians are facing, the lyrics of the songs from this growing genre hits people hard, as relatability was (and still is) key to a wider and more loyal fanbase.
The "controversial" song that has caused a ban on a whole music genre
Hani Shaker, veteran Egyptian singer and current head of the Musicians' Syndicate in the country, made it clear that he's not a fan of the Mahraganat movement, mainly due to the songs' "vulgar" lyrics.
The syndicate believes such music "has corrupted society with innuendo-filled lyrics, reinforced immoral customs and applauded decadence."
During a phone call with Egyptian TV program Men El Balad, Shaker criticized Mahraganat and stressed that there will be tough restrictions and strict guidelines on the genre's singers. In a press release, the syndicate warns tourist establishments, Nile cruises, nightclubs, and cafés of dealing with singers belonging to this music genre, Middle East Eye reported.
The ban came after Bent El Geran was performed during a Valentine's Day concert held at Cairo Stadium. Its lyrics, "If you break up with me... I will drink alcohol and smoke weed," rang no sweet bells in Shaker's mind.
The latter is on a mission, it seems: to "protect the public's general taste."
Now the question is, who decides how the public's general taste should be like and what they should and shouldn't listen to?
There are almost 100 million people (and counting) residing in Egypt. The irony? A bit over 115 million people viewed Bent El Geran on Shakoush's YouTube channel — which has 1.73 million subscribers.
For as long as art has existed, there has been a debate on what is considered refined, tasteful, and elegant and what is considered vulgar and tacky. Truth is, some admire the latter category ... and perhaps that's why it exists.
Umm Kulthum was initially blasted for collaborating with young modernist composer Baligh Hamdi; Nizar Qabbani's poetry was deemed by some to be obscene and indecent. But there will always be those who cast judgments and criticize, thinking their opinion is right even if it contradicts that of millions. Why should one person or one official entity dictate what the audience should listen to?
From the millions of views, memes, covers, and viral videos, it's safe to say people around the world are enjoying Bent El Geran and don't mind the lyrics.