Islamic Heavy Metal in Egypt
Heavy metal music is gaining a steady fan base in Egypt. Traditionally, the country’s deeply conservative wider society has been wary of the musical genre, but fans see no contradiction between their faith and their music. STORYLINE: Fans pack into a concert hall for a night of heavy metal music. But many of these fans are now setting up their own bands and having a go themselves. Fans like Lina El-Gohary, a 21 year-old university student. In her veil, she doesn’t look like a typical heavy metal fan. But she is a devout Muslim who sings in ‘Anhedonia’: a ‘Doom Metal’ band that plays an extreme form of heavy metal music evoking a feeling of gloom and despair. Anhedonia refers to a psychological condition characterised by an inability to experience pleasure in acts which normally produce it. Lina and her band mates see no contradiction between their love for heavy metal and their Islamic faith. But in a predominantly conservative society like Egypt many people view their lifestyle as strange. The state and local media have a deep suspicion of the music in Egypt. However, Anhedonia are determined to overcome the odds to record their debut album ‘Doloria’. Lina El-Gohary holds the microphone in her hands as she belts out the verses of a song called ‘Trail of Illusions’. Her black veil is wrapped tightly around her head. Lina and the boys in the group are students in their final years of university. Anhedonia want their listeners to feel gloom and despair; her songs are usually punctuated with demonic growls and screams. But this is Egypt, where many people might find this kind of music offensive and in contradiction with their culture and values. In the past, youths taking part in the Egyptian heavy metal scene were even accused of worshipping Satan, and a media witch-hunt ultimately resulted in the arrest of hundreds of teenagers and university students. The public never got over the scandal and metal heads like Anhedonia continue to struggle against this bad reputation today. But Tarek, the bassist and founder of the band, says the obstacles they face in their lives are actually an important experience, which enriches their music. He stresses he is not just talking about their personal problems, but rather the general challenges of living in this part of the world. “The obstacles we have faced were actually an important experience that ultimately enriched our music. I am not talking just about our personal problems, but more importantly the general challenges of living in this part of the world. Growing up it seemed that no matter what we wanted to do there was always something standing in our way. This applies to the Middle East in general, not just Egypt. Youth can seldom follow their dreams because there is usually someone who’s trying to stop them. These struggles have transpired into our music. We believe that everyone has the right to be who they want to be,” he says. Lina, the only female member in the band, faces the most problems in her lifestyle choice. As a veiled ‘Metal Head’ her dark clothes, eyeliner, and lip piercing make her stand out. Lina says that some people think it’s a contradiction to listen to heavy metal music and be a good Muslim. “Some people think that if you listen to heavy metal music that means you can’t be a good Muslim or a Christian if that’s your faith. Like they think you can’t fulfill your religious duty by praying regularly or worshipping your creator and still be into heavy metal. That’s how a lot of people view it. But I see things differently. I see no link between the two. I really care about my relationship with God, but my musical tastes are not involved with this. At the end of the day I keep these parts of my life separate,” she says.