Egypt’s heavy metal music scene is tiny, largely due to charges of Satanism brought against musicians in the 1990s. With metal making a comeback, a new crop of musicians is wondering where they stand in the new Egypt.
Amr Hefny‘s small, darkly-lit music studio sits amid an unpaved tangle of back streets in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City. Hefny, a heavyset father of two, says the studio is unlikely to make him a rich man but he has always seen music as a calling despite his role in one of the darkest episodes in recent Egyptian music history.
At the age of 20, Hefny played in a heavy metal band called SEVERED. He doesn’t remember their lyrics as particularly dark, nor would he characterize himself as particularly alienated, an argument which failed to impress Egyptian security forces who burst into his mother’s house in January 1997.
“They were like SWAT teams in the USA,” Hefny says of the men who arrested him. “They started tearing everything apart. I was asking: ‘What do you want?’ And then [one of them] turned to me and said, ‘Amr, do you listen to black metal?'”
Amr, along with around 20 other metal musicians and several dozen fans were held in Cairo’s notorious Tora prison on charges of Satanism. The authorities accused them of unearthing corpses and taking part in orgies. The Egyptian press, not to be outdone, printed rumors that the young people drank the blood of cats.
After a month in prison, Amr was released. Authorities could find no evidence of any wrongdoing, nothing, in fact, more damning than a few GUNS N’ ROSES tapes and METALLICA posters confiscated from bedrooms.
Read more at Deutsche Welle.
Check out an interview with heavy metal fans in Egypt, which aired on Dream 2 TV on February-March, 2010: