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Confusion reigns over Travis Scott pyramids concert

With just days to go until Travis Scott’s scheduled concert in front of the Pyramids of Giza, it is still unclear as to whether the livestreamed performance can take place.

The Live Nation-promoted event, set for this Friday (28 July), has been shrouded in controversy after Egypt’s state-affiliated Musicians Syndicate claimed it was cancelling the licence it issued “to ensure the safety and protection of the audience”.

On 18 July, the Musicians Syndicate said the sold-out concert, scheduled to take place in the Sound and Light area near the pyramid complex, would not be permitted due to “the artist’s positions, images and documented information on the strange rituals he practises, which go against our traditions”.

“The artist’s positions, images and documented information on the strange rituals he practises go against our traditions”

“While the Musicians Syndicate has welcomed various art forms and concerts in recent months, it has set conditions and regulations to safeguard the customs and traditions inherited by the Egyptian people,” said Dr Mohamed Abdullah, in a statement on behalf of the Musicians Syndicate.

“After examining social media opinions and feedback, as well as the news circulating on search engines and social media platforms, which included authenticated images and information about peculiar rituals performed by the star during his performance, contradicting our authentic societal values and traditions, the syndicate’s president and board of directors have decided to cancel the licence issued for hosting this type of concert, which goes against the cultural identity of the Egyptian people.”

Scott hit back in an open letter, saying that such images and information were “bot generated” and “fake information”.

Later that day, Live Nation Middle East maintained that the concert, in support of Scott’s forthcoming album Utopia, was going ahead: “There have been no changes to Travis Scott’s show in Egypt, any reports to the contrary are false. We can’t wait to celebrate Utopia with you in Egypt!”

Confusion deepened when local promoter and ticketer for the concert, Ticketsmarche, days later said Scott’s equipment was seized and the organisers were prevented from entering the pyramids area.

The company’s CEO Mohamed Serag told local media at the time that the concert’s fate was unknown. “We do not know what we will do, especially if the last date for the equipment to enter was Wednesday. However, nothing new has happened given that most state institutions are on official leave until Sunday.

“We have all the permits and we do not know the reason for preventing the entry of the equipment, especially since the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate does not have the authority to cancel the concert, nor does it have the power to prevent the entry of the equipment. It also made it clear that the whole matter is in the hands of the authorities.”

Serag said that the size of the initial losses of cancelling the concert would amount to approximately LE 300 million (€8.7m)

Serag told the Egypt Independent that the size of the initial losses of cancelling the concert would amount to approximately LE 300 million (€8.7m).

However, Serag remains hopeful the Tourism Ministry will give the concert the green light, and Scott has continued to promote the concert on his social media channels. “Love ya more can’t wait to see ya in Utopia,” he tweeted nine hours ago.

If the concert goes ahead it would be broadcast live to about 200 million people, which would be an unprecedented promotion for the pyramids area and Egyptian tourism, said Serag.

He added that about 4,000 confirmed tickets have been booked by foreigners coming, each of whom will stay for at least a week, which means 28,000 nights in Egyptian hotels, all of which will be in foreign currency, which could constitute great profits for the tourism sector in Egypt.

The Ticketsmarche CEO also said his company has agreed on 10 concerts with renowned international artists in Egypt for the coming months but says they are unlikely to take place if Scott’s concert is cancelled.

Days ago, it was announced that Palm Tree Music Festival, founded by Norwegian producer Kygo and his manager Myles Shear, will be exported to the Pyramids. Other acts that have previously performed at the location include Maroon 5 (2022), Black Eyed Peas (2021) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (2019).


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Nader Sadek sues over ‘devil worship’ defamation

Nader Sadek, the visual artist, metal musician and concert promoter known for his conflict with the Egyptian Musicians’ Syndicate, is suing the union’s head, Hany Shaker, for defamation and libel.

Sadek – who has brought international acts including Sepultura, Aborted, Alkaloid, Inquisition and Dark Fortress to play for Egyptian metalheads – spent time in a Cairo jail last year after Shaker accused him of being part of an “international devil-worshipping network” and promoting music that conflicts with Egyptian “society’s religious beliefs and social traditions”. (Read the full story here.)

He tells IQ he has high hopes of winning his case against Shaker, which will be heard by a Cairo judge on 21 May, “because they [the Syndicate] defamed me live on TV, even after we initiated the lawsuit,” he explains, referencing an appearance by a spokesman for the Musicians’ Syndicate on Al Kahera Wal Nas in April in which he again accused Sadek of devil worship, as well as telling Sadek’s lawyer, Mokhtar Badr, he was only “looking for fame”.

In a bizarre aside, the programme also included an appearance from a ‘high priest of devil worship’ – an actor in impressively realistic prosthetic make-up – designed to ridicule the Syndicate’s accusations of devil worship. “What the channel did with my episode is they brought in this half-man, half-creature thing with horns and interviewed him,” Sadek explains. “Everybody was freaking out – they told people with weak hearts to turn the TV off – and this thing comes in and introduces himself as priest of Satan.

“Later, the ‘priest’ took his mask off and a famous prosthetic artist come out and revealed it was fake: the point being that there is no devil worship and no priests of Satan.”

Sadek is seeking E£1 million in damages to cover the losses from Sepultura, Dark Fortress and Inquisition concerts disrupted by the Syndicate. “The only way he [Shaker] is going to get out of it is by bringing false or fabricated evidence,” continues Sadek. “We didn’t do anything unlawful, so the law is on our side. Additionally, Shaker and the Syndicate are not in any legal or  religious position to make claims about myself or my religious practices.”

Sadek says he believes Shaker, who claimed to have infiltrated the Inquisition show and exposed a devil-worshipping ring, was driven purely by self-interest: “When he initially posted on his Facebook page about infiltrating the Inquisition show – which in reality he did not do – he mentions at the end, ‘I saved the youths of Egypt from devil worship’,” he explains. “It was an attempt to make himself look like a hero.”

“It’s not just about metal – it’s about art”

In the event Shaker – one of the Arab world’s most famous singers – does win, Sadek says he and Badr are planning to take the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. “We’re just going to keep going after them.

“Technically I was tortured, as one of the prison guards put out a cigarette on my foot… If I do lose, I’m not stopping. I seek justice, and most in my position would have left the country. But I don’t run – I’m here to stay.”

Sadek emphasises that the repercussions of the case go far beyond beyond metal music, setting a precedent for the protection of artistic freedom throughout Egypt. “It’s not just about metal,” he says. “It’s about art. If some people can’t deal with it, they have two choices: either change themselves from within, or just don’t look at it.

“There are things in our society that we can’t change that we have to accept – they need to do the same.”


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Musicians ‘50% more likely to be on medication’

Mental health in the music industry has been a hot topic in 2016, with the MMF’s Fiona McGugan, panels at The Great Escape and Bigsound and the launch of Help Musicians UK’s Music and Depression (MAD) study all serving to draw attention to an issue hitherto largely undiscussed.

Now, a new study from Norway has revealed the extent of the problem, finding that musicians in the country are three times more likely to be undergoing psychotherapy than the average Norwegian and 50% more likely to be using psychotropic medication (a class of drugs that includes antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers and anxiolytics).

The study, led by Jonas Vaag of the North Trøndelag Hospital Trust’s department of psychiatry, found the disproportionate use of medication and therapy among musicians to be “consistent with previous findings indicating high rates of sleep difficulties and psychological distress among musicians”.

The results are “consistent with previous findings indicating high rates of sleep difficulties and psychological distress among musicians”

Use of therapy was reported most frequently among singers, while the most widespread use of psychiatric medication is by rock musicians.

“The results underline the importance of investigating both the content and quality of services provided,” concludes Dr Vaag’s team’s report.


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