Egyptian singer Hany Shaker resigns from musicians' guild as altercation goes viral

The decision comes after an argument between guild officials and mahraganat musicians at a conciliatory press conference

Egyptian singer Hany Shaker has been in a long-standing battle with members of the rap and mahraganat genres. EPA
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Veteran Egyptian singer Hany Shaker has resigned as the head of the country’s musicians’ guild, he announced on a popular talk show on Monday.

Shaker made his decision after an altercation at a conciliatory meeting between guild officials and some of the country’s mahraganat musicians, with whom the guild and Shaker have had a rocky relationship.

The conference was held to give singer Hassan Shakosh, who had previously been banned from performing in Egypt, his newly issued guild card, in a move that was to symbolise Shaker’s administration was finally making peace with members of the controversial but budding mahraganat genre.

The genre has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity among Egyptian audiences in the past two years to the dismay of some of the country’s more conservative figures.

A membership in the musicians' guild is viewed as a necessity for performers in Egypt as without it, they are barred from playing at any licensed establishments which seriously undercuts their incomes.

The altercation, which was viewed by tens of thousands as it was broadcast live on social media and TV, involved a prominent mahraganat percussionist named Saeed El Artist, who protested against the guild only reconciling with Shakosh and leaving many other mahraganat musicians without a licence. El Artist can be seen in the shared videos loudly rejecting the issuance of a membership card to only Shakosh.

Following the argument between El Artist and the guild, Shaker got up and left the conference hall.

Videos of the disagreement were widely shared online as well as on television shows in Egypt.

Shaker told two talk shows that he had had enough of the long battle with the mahraganat genre and said his resignation was final.

He also said he wishes the next guild president the best of luck and that he was planning to take a step back and spend more time with his family and working on his music career.

“After the scene that happened today, I felt that it would be difficult to complete the remainder of my term as president,” Shaker said on the talk show Kelma Akheera with Lamees El Hadidi on Monday night.

“I reached a point where I am unable to continue, and I thank the respected members of the General Assembly who stood by me throughout this time.”

Shaker has been engaged in a long-standing battle with members of the rap and mahraganat genres, whose lyrics he feels have become increasingly inappropriate over the years.

The rift reached fever pitch in 2020 when the guild, under Shaker’s leadership, issued a blanket ban on mahraganat performers all over Egypt.

“I have nothing, professionally speaking, against the actual music itself," he told The National in November. "If you want to hear it all day long then you go for it.

“What I object to is some of the lyricism involved. There are phrases and subject matter to these songs that have never been uttered in Egyptian music before.”

Many Egyptians do not agree with Shaker in his view on the genre, including prominent businessman Naguib Sawiris, who has made remarks about Shaker in the past.

At the height of Shaker’s issues with the country’s mahraganat musicians, Sawiris accused Shaker, 69, of being jealous of their success because he was past his heyday.

After Shaker’s resignation, Sawiris took to Twitter to comment, using an Egyptian proverb that in essence means good riddance. This time, however, what he said was not well received by his followers, many of whom defended Shaker and said that it was inappropriate for Sawiris to celebrate someone’s hardships.

Twitter user Amr Rabie, replied saying Sawiris's tweet was "not nice", as "Shaker is extremely popular among people who fully respect him".

Naglaa Azzam, meanwhile, said Sawiris's tweet was "not acceptable at all". "Please do not transcend the right of an artist as valuable as Hany Shaker."

Following the backlash, Sawiris posted another tweet apologising to anyone he may have offended with his comment on Shaker, but still saying he deserved it because he had tried to get in the way of people and their sources of income.

"I apologise to all those who were upset by [my] tweet about the Head of the Musicians Syndicate, Hani Shaker... But I remember my words with Amr Adib, 'Our God does not forgive those who threaten the livelihood of people.'"

It is unclear who will succeed Shaker as the guild’s next president.

Updated: June 28, 2022, 2:22 PM