After a rather unceremonious press conference yesterday, Hany Shaker revealed that he would be stepping down from his duties as head of the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate. Shaker announced— as anyone would— on a popular live Egyptian talk show hosted by Amr Adib that his decision was “irreversible” and “final.”
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The recent bout comes after a series of issues inside and surrounding the syndicate, ranging from allegations that Shaker asked banned artists to change their names in order to perform legally in Egypt to a disagreement between renown Mahraganet star Hassan Shakoush and percussionist Said El-Artest.
Shakoush is no stranger to issues from the syndicate. Shakoush along with a number of Mahraganet artists (Hamo Beka et al.), were banned from performing live in Egypt as of November last year, a decision met by both praise and protest from inside and out of the syndicate. The longstanding idea of the association being “principled moderators” of Egyptian music has quickly become more synonymous to many as “archaic silencers.”
Shakoush has had several issues with the organization and its members since this ruling. The most recent of which stems from a verbal altercation with Reda Bahrawy on stage last August when Shakoush asked Bahrawy’s musicians to clear the stage quickly so he could start his show. Both of their memberships to the syndicate were revoked, however they subsequently had, yet another, conference to apologize and put aside their differences. However this wasn’t enough for El-Artest, who was apparently holding a grudge since an incident, in which Shakoush is alleged to have said the drummer’s “children are belly dancers.”
Consequently El-Artest, along with other members of the syndicate, believed that Shakoush should not be allowed to re-enter the syndicates members after its original ruling in 2021. After a series of appeals, he was granted permission to rejoin.
What was supposed to be a conference of reconciliation, became yet further controversy for the committee. El-Artest stood up in the closing minutes of the conference to question the legitimacy of Shakoush’s return, naturally causing, as one might expect, an embarrassing match of grown men shouting and finger pointing.
Shaker has never been one to take well to criticism or embarrassment, so it’s not difficult to see why this very public argument has prompted the now ex-president of the syndicate to step down.
Critic, Tarek El-Shennawi commented: “I see the crisis not in what happened last night, within the syndicate, but from almost 5 years, as the Musicians Syndicate takes decisions and then retracts them, sometimes preventing Mahraganet singers from singing, and sometimes a different rulings for them, or asking them to change their names.”
“Shakoush has apologized for his actions and his statements about the percussionists, Shaker never apologized for his statements made towards singers in the cinema palace last year,” he concluded.
It seems at this point that Shaker’s resignation is an escape from the battle. Although he has good reason for it, it’s clear that the issues inside the syndicate are much deeper than what they first appeared.
With a new president on the way, one can only hope for a head that respects the classics but doesn’t stand in the way of progress. Repression comes in many forms, and repressing art does nothing more than make it more popular and more powerful. Shakoush is a living testament to that.