'Milk & dates': Singer swaps alcohol,hash lyric in Saudi gig

'Milk & dates': Egyptian singer swaps out 'alcohol, hashish' lyric for Saudi gig, outrages fans
2 min read
03 December, 2021
Popular Egyptian ‘mahraganat’ singer Omar Kamal will be interrogated by the musicians’ syndicate for allegedly offending his homeland.
Mahraganat is a form of pop music deemed contentious due to its use of crude slang and mention of alcohol and drugs [Getty]

CAIRO: In yet another crisis between the Egyptian musicians’ syndicate and controversial ‘mahraganat' singer Omar Kamal, the performer will be interrogated for allegedly insulting his homeland on social media.

Kamal, whose song Bent El-Giran (Girl next door) had already sparked controversy in Egypt last year, replaced the lyrics “alcohol” and “hashish” with “milk” and “dates” during a recent performance in Saudi Arabia, under the pretext that he was singing on a scared land.

Mahraganat is a form of pop music deemed contentious due to its use of crude slang and mention of alcohol and drugs.

Kamal’s gesture was met with outrage from social media users who considered it an insult to Egypt, questioning why the singer had no issue with using profane lyrics in his own country.

On Wednesday, the musicians’ syndicate led by veteran singer Hani Shaker, who had already been having a long-time feud with mahraganat singers and rappers, was quick to react, deciding to question Kamal and investigate the matter.

In a statement, the syndicate rejected what it described as Kamal’s “violations.”

“Egypt is a safeguarded, sacred homeland known for monotheism even before [ the advent of Abrahamic] religions…prophets took refuge in its land…until one of its children [Kamal]….offended it by [his] words, whether intentionally or intentionally,” the statement read.   

Kamal responded by saying that he had made no reference to Saudi Arabia as being a holy land on social media.   

“I didn’t offend my homeland on Twitter as many claimed as I don’t have a Twitter account in the first place,” he told talk show host Ahmed Moussa in a telephone interview on a daily show broadcast on Sada El-Balad satellite TV channel.  

‘Bent El-Giran’ first sparked a controversy when performed on Valentine’s Day last year, after which Shaker banned mahraganat performances in Egypt. The song was regarded as a big hit.

Egypt's parliament on Tuesday approved an amendment granting the musicians’ syndicate judicial powers, causing outcry from artistic freedom advocates.

The law was passed a few days after a meeting between the legislature's culture and media committee members and Shaker, who described ‘mahraganat’ songs as being "rubbish" during the session.

Last week, the musicians’ syndicate blacklisted 19 mahraganat singers, banning them from singing at all public venues in the country.

Despite Shaker’s attempt to combat mahraganat, the genre has continued to garner millions of views and listens from Egypt and across the Arab world on YouTube and other streaming platforms.