From social injustice and oppression, Egypt’s post-revolutionary Mahragant dance was born in slum areas and gained prominence all over the country when oppression increased after four years of political turbulence.
As the social injustice was the main catalyst for the Egyptian revolution in 2011, socio economic impoverishments led the youth in disadvantaged communities to express their frustration in artistic way that projects into the defiance and the will to survive against their tough life of slums.
Egyptian Mahragant- Arabic word for festivals – is social-minded, techno-rap mash-up and has its roots from hip-hop and folkloric southern Egyptian dance called Tahtib [stick fighting]. The fast and aggressive rhythm of the music was formulated to adjust the youth’s manhood show-off and tendency to Spartan-style sword- fighting.
Reminiscent to thuggish fighting in slum areas where blades used to inflict injuries not to kill, Mahragant dance is a type of sword fighting that goes in tune with the music’s aggressive beats. The word itself suggest the carnival atmosphere of weddings and concerts similar to rave parties.
In its home country, Mahraganat is not recognized by the state controlled music syndicates and barred from the pop-centric radio and TV, but the fact that it is coming from and for the working class in rough neighborhoods which represents the majority of the society, the music and its dance went phenomenally viral on social media and become a source of success to any movie presenting not only the music but also the life of the rough slums where the music came from.
Mahragant is not only music and dance but it has also become an identity and an artistic way of expressing self-defiance against day-to-day tough life in slum areas moreover it is a healing venue in which a dancer utilize the aggressive movements to shake off the accumulation of negative energy and to express dissatisfaction against any type of societal or governmental oppression or injustice.
Lyrics tackle the everyday issues in Egyptian society such as pride, courage, drug-taking, fighting defiance, sexual frustration as well as the general chaos of Cairo. Against the traditions of the society, Mahragant singers adopted Bob Marley hair style, and their thuggish-tuned lyrics are seething about their frustration of a better life through irreverent, comical and sarcastic lyrics like “The people want phone credit! Just phone credit,” a play on the popular 18-day Tahrir Square uprising chant: “The people want the fall of the regime!”
“From Aswan to Alexandria, We are serious, This is no theatre, Forget about what they say about ethnicity, and whether it divides humanity, We remain civilian state, No religious state, No military State, we are kings of Shaabi music, we brought hellish ideas from the lands of Egypt,” One song says.
For the poor and less educated youth in slum areas, the more advanced and fearless in using sword or blades in fights, the more likely they can impose their own tit-for-tat order away from the police control.
In a blown-out, electronic beats churns. Mahragant dancers are motivated by the fast beats, pulling out a knife or swords and carves through the air to show off their fearless masculinity and courage.
Maharagnt genre is motivated by thuggish accent, jargon and the dance movements are related to fearless blades fighting, or striking fears among people of the talent of enlisting a sword in a fast dance and the fact of getting a firm hold of the sword while dancing and controlling it in a way that get close to the audience but not injuring them shows the heroism of the dancer.
“The dance movements become faster after the revolution and more aggressive as a result of frustration and disappointment, It is like I am holding a blade and I am able to give you 111 [meaning three slashes in the face] to show off that I have control and power and able to challenge any oppressor” said Ahmad Hagar, Taxi driver from Mansoura and a Mahragant dancer.
This is explains why the feeling of powerlessness led many young people in the Egyptian slums resorts to thuggery and their pursuit for fame in their neighborhoods where violence become rampant.
Mahragant lyrics keeps low-profile vis a vis its thuggish music where a dancer visualize fighting violently with knives and swords in a quick, strong movements.