Egypt's musical hipsters protest against joining the mainstream
A protest took place on Friday in defense of underground music in front of the Sawy Culture Wheel. The protest was planned for 5 pm but started around 2.30 pm with several bands from the underground scene present. It planned to take a stand against what musicians saw as de facto discrimination against underground musicians because of union laws. The union of musicians requires all musicians to be members and bear ID in order to play in public, or they have to pay a fine.
According to the organiser, Islam Ismael, the Sawy Culturewheel let the union “harass” the musicians without interfering. The union would ask for a fine or threaten to cancel shows of unionised musicians, despite the fact that the contract between the musicians and Sawy requires 30 per cent of all profits to go to the union.
The protest lasted until 5.30pm, when a committee from the union and Mohamed El Sawy came to talk to the protestors. “We then went inside the River Hall where we held a discussion where everyone could have their questions answered. The union proposed a few measures to help underground musicians integrate within its system,” said Ismael.
The union proposed an extension of the time in which the musicians can arrange for the memberships to the end of this month, ending on 1 December, as well as offering to accept payments of the union fees, EGP 500, in installments over three years.
“70 per cent of the musicians present did not like the proposals while the rest accepted. The union also warned us that the situation could turn from a fine to prison time, varying from one to three months. The fines [that will be levied when the musicians continue to perform without union ID's] would range from EGP 2,000 to EGP 20,000 if we do not comply,” said Ismael.
Ismael added that for now, there is no other option but to join the union and work from within it to try and serve the underground music community.