Bent El Geran بنت الجيران (The Neighbors’ Daughter) Hassan Shakosh

“Bent El Geran” was supposed to mark the moment when Egypt’s mahraganat genre finally broke through to the mainstream. Instead, it got the genre banned entirely.

In our previous translation of “Al Shaab Yurid” we described how the mahraganat genre emerged on the margins of Egyptian society, but has slowly moved into the mainstream. Once an underground genre heard only at street parties and passed around on USBs, it had begun to achieve official recognition over the course of the past decade, with mahraganat artists getting recording contracts and film cameos. But the genre never fully displaced the mainstream Arab Pop of singers like Amr Diab and Nancy Ajram, and failed to catch on outside of Egypt.

That is, until “Bent El Geran.”

“Bent El Geran” managed to hit the No. 2 spot on SoundCloud worldwide (ahead of Elon Musk’s EDM track), and so far has garnered more than 200 millions views on YouTube. This is not just Amr Diab territory. This is blowing Amr Diab out of the water.

On the face of it, “Bent El Geran” is not your typical mahraganat song. The drums are less pounding, the vocal line more melodic, and even the lyrics repeat all the love clichés of conventional Arab Pop. But that just might be the secret of its success. It has the sugary sweetness of a pop song, with the energy of a mahraganat. It’s the kind of mahraganat song that you can take home to meet your parents.

Which makes it all the more threatening when the song violates one of Egyptian society’s taboos. While it’s true that most of the song dwells on romantic clichés that wouldn’t be out of place in a song by Amr Diab or Tamer Hosny, there is one line that gives cause for scandal: “If you leave me, I’ll hate my life and my years / I’ll lose myself and won’t find myself, I’ll drink alcohol and smoke hashish.”

Now by mahraganat standards, this line is fairly tame, and by no means was this the first mahraganat song to reference alcohol and hashish. But it’s one thing to mention such things in a song that will only be passed around on USB sticks, and it’s another thing to flaunt these taboos before a mass audience. And that’s precisely what happened with “Bent El Geran.”

In February, Hassan Shakosh appeared alongside other major Arab Pop stars, including Nancy Ajram and Tamer Hosny, in a Valentine’s Day concert at Cairo Stadium attended by tens of thousands of fans. You can’t get more mainstream than that. And although supposedly Shakosh had agreed beforehand to drop the offending line from the song, whether by accident or by design he still sung about consuming alcohol and hashish in front of thousands of impressionable youths.

This was just the pretext that the government needed to shut it all down. Egypt’s Musicians’ Syndicate declared an outright ban not just on the song “Bent El Geran” or on Hassan Shakosh, but on the entire mahraganat genre. Henceforth, mahraganat artists would be banned from performing at any public venue, and the government even petitioned YouTube and SoundCloud to remove “Bent El Geran” from their sites.

The overreaction here has led some to speculate that the government wants to ban mahraganat for other reasons unrelated to this specific song. Given the genre’s emergence in the years right before the Arab Spring, it still has subversive associations that the authorities would rather put a lid on as they try to restore the status quo.

But in spite of these efforts, it’s hard to imagine that this music that emerged from the margins of Egyptian society will be snuffed out by being forced back into the margins from which it originated. It might even find new strength by returning to its roots. Maybe it’s true that the genre was becoming too mainstream. Maybe this ban will save mahraganat’s soul.

You’re candied sugar on top of cream

سكر محلي محطوت على كريمة

Your heel is adorned with hennah, and your figure is perfect

كعبك محني والعود عليه القيمة

You come and find I’m still ok

وتجيني تلاقيني لسه بخيري

You’re not going to belong to anyone else

مش هتبقي لغيري

There’s no one else but me

أيوه أنا غيري مفيش

The girl next door has caught my eye

بنت الجيران شغلالي انا عنيا

I’m there and lots of people are around me

وأنا في المكان فيه خلق حواليا

I don’t want anyone to notice the state I’m in

مش عايز حد يأخد باله من اللي أنا فيه

I saw the moon and it’s kept me up at night

شفت القمر سهرني لياليا

God knows that I’m dying to have you

وهموت عليكي ربي العالم بيا

Leave your window open, why do you close it?

سيبي شباكك مفتوح ليه تقفليه

I feel like having you sit with me

بهوايا انتي قاعدة معايا

Your eyes are a mirror, oh beauty, a mirror of the eye

عنيكي ليا مرايه ياجمال مراية العين

Stick around — if you leave, I’ll call you

خليكي لو هتمشي هناديكي

I belong to you, you belong to me

انتي ليا أنا ليكي احنا الاتنين قاطعين

If you leave me, I’ll hate my life and my years

تسيبيني أكره حياتي وسنيني

I’ll get lost and won’t find myself, I’ll drink alcohol and smoke hashish

هتوه ومش هلاقيني وأشرب خمور وحشيش

You’ll come and find me still ok

وتجيني تلاقيني لسه بخيري

You won’t belong to anyone else, that’s right, there’s no one else but me

مش هتبقي لغيري ايوه أنا غيري مفيش

You’re cream on top of candied sugar

سكر محلي محطوت علي كريمة

Your heel is adorned with hennah, and your figure is perfect

كعبك محني والعود عليه القيمة

You have a look about you that drives me crazy

عليكي بصة تخلي العاقل مجنون

You melted my heart with a step from your foot

دوبتي قلبي بخطوة من رجلك

You pulled out my soul, it left me to follow you

سحبتي روحي سابتني وراحتلك

I belong to you and I have to be with you

أنا بيكي وليكي ومعاكي لازم هكوون

You’re on my mind, I don’t have to tell you again

شغلاني مش هقولك تاني

A thousand things hurt me, but when I see your eyes I relax

طب ألف حاجة وجعاني بشوف عنيكي أرتاح

O my angel, I’d sacrifice my life for you

ياملاكي تروح حياتي فداكي

I keep following you wherever you go

أفضل وراكي وراكي في أي مكان يتراح

Look at me, shake your hips, lean in, let your eyes tell me

بصيلي هزي وسطك ميلي سيبي عينك تحكيلي

What you’re hiding

اللي انتي مخبياه

Tell me what you understood from my eyes

وقوليلي فهمتي ايه من عيني

Answer the question, tell me if you love me

وعلي السؤال جاوبيني لو تحبيني قوليلي

You understood my look before I speak

فهمتي عيني من قبل م اتكلم

I don’t want anyone but you, I’m determined to have you

مش عايز غيرك عليكي انا مصمم

Your figure, your beauty, everything about you is lovable

عودك جمالك كل اللي فيكي يتحب

You have a great sense of humor, your laughter is sweet

دمك خفيف وضحكتك شربات

Your soul is like honey, you sweet thing

زي العسل روحك يا حلاويات

I need a million hearts to love you

علشان حبك محتاجلي مليون قلب

I need a million hearts to love you

علشان حبك محتاجلي مليون قلب