Despite a thriving rock scene developing in Egypt in recent years, an Egyptian musician and concert promoter was allegedly arrested on the night of Saturday 4 June after police shut down a “satanic party” in Cairo featuring touring Brazilian band Sepultura.
According to a recent article published in the UK-based magazine IQ, witnesses reported that promoter Nader Sadek and two other people, including the owner of the villa in the Sheikh Zayed area where the concert was taking place, were taken into custody and interrogated after police, acting on instructions from the National Defence Council, raided the concert, at which Sadek and other local acts were also due to perform.
Giza police chief General Khaled Shalaby reportedly said that his force received a tip-off that around 60 people were preparing to attend a “satanic” event in Sheikh Zayed, in the Cairo suburbs. Police forces allegedly stormed into the villa and physically stopped the concert.
Hany Shaker, head of the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate, stated on Egyptian state TV that “the devil worshippers [Sepultura fans] were dressed in a very weird style and drew their makeup in the shape of a pentagram” and “wore leather jackets with stars on the back, and that is strange.”
Shaker is a controversial figure who was initially reported to have resigned after the backlash to a similar controversy involving Sadek in March, when Shaker told TV host Sayed Ali that a concert by American band Inquisition and Dubai-based Perversion at the Sherazade nightclub on 19 February was part of a Western conspiracy to spread “chaos and immorality” among young Egyptians.
This time around, it seems that various Egyptian authorities did not got their stories straight. Ahmed Hegazy, head of the Giza Security Directorate, said the main reason for the cancellation was a lack of proper permits.
According to Egyptian news source Ahram Online, even though Sadek had acquired the necessary permission from the Musicians Syndicate, he had not received required permission from other official bodies, including the National Security Agency. Several assistants to the organisers, who planned bus trips and helped bring food to the concert, apparently fear persecution as the matter now is investigated by the National Security Agency.
Metal Bell Magazine meanwhile reports that Sadek has since been arrested.
Formed in 1984 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Sepultura have sold some 20 million albums worldwide, including 3 million in the USA alone. MTV has called Sepultura the most successful Brazilian heavy metal band in history and "perhaps the most important heavy metal band of the '90s."
The show would have been Sepultura’s first in Egypt. Early on Saturday, the band wrote on Facebook: “Cairo, let’s make history tonight!”
Shortly before the show was due to start, the band's guitarist Andreas Kisser told Ahram Online: “It is great to have the possibility to come to a place like Egypt. It has been 32 years in our career. Egypt is the 76th country that we visited, with all its history, which is a beautiful mark for us. We played in several other places, regardless of the political situation or religion or any other aspect. We played in Muslim and Catholic countries; we played in dictatorships, democracies and monarchies. We played in every type of country.
“It is really great to see that Egypt has really opened the door and laid down those barriers and always felt like pioneers in that regard. It is not easy to come to Egypt and put on a heavy metal show... We brought a crew to make the best effort to present the show, as we did everywhere in the world.
“Hopefully, this Sepultura show will help people open more doors and make people understand that we are making art and music. We have interests in different kinds of music in the world, and we talk about everything in our lyrics, about society and different experiences in nations. We touch on different kinds of subjects and it's great.”
Following the show’s cancellation at the hands of authoriites, Sepultura’s manager Tom Gill announced that the band members felt sorry for the cancellation “because they've been dreaming to play in Egypt for a while.
“What we have heard about the cancellation is that it was related to some missing permit payments, but we could not confirm it because we couldn't speak with Nader Sadek, the organiser,” said Gill. “They told us that he has been taken by the police.”
Sepultura also wrote on their Facebook page that they are deeply “sorry for the fans that were anxiously waiting for the concert, but these are legal issues that are beyond the control of any artist.”
Egypt is not the only African country with strict laws controlling live shows. In Ethiopia, for example, concerts have been cancelled at the last minute for similar reasons. For more on issues of censorship and freedom of expression, see our June 2016 theme.