Veteran Egyptian singer Hani Shaker, nicknamed “Prince of Arab Singing”, still dreams of recovering the golden era of music in Egypt, as he is willing to sacrifice everything to present authentic music that expresses the sincerity of feelings away from vulgarity that have dominated the music scene as he described it. When you listen to Shaker singing, you feel there is still hope to recover and restore the golden era of singing that disappeared with the death of music giants.
Hani Shaker recently returned home from Tunisia after performing a concert. He expressed his gratitude for the Tunisian people as they opened their borders to receive the Egyptians fleeing from the conflicts that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and provided them with food and means of comfort and safety as much as they could.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Shaker and his words were no less sincere than his feelings and the beauty of his voice.
How do you see cancelling TV concerts and limiting them to some summer parties?
This is another farce. Where are the honourable TV nights? Now there are parties for “semi-talented” singers. What does it mean to hold parties for singers that are supposed to be men dancing like girls? This is really a shame; Egyptian singing is not like that.
We are in Egypt, the country of art and singing. It is a shame that our media provides a window to this moral decay. Concerts are now about dancing not singing. It is time for those singers to quit.
I feel a kind of bitterness in your words?
This is true because the Arab people deserve to see respectful art. This is not singing. And I imagine that those responsible for the media are the main reason for what is happening. They bear the largest share of this confusion, which led to the spread of semi-talents in the singing arena.
Why did you not produce your songs as you did in the past?
I discovered that production conditions have become difficult these days. The production process is very stressful, and I have suffered a lot.
What do you think about the level that singing has reached in the recent period?
Singing at present has become a difficult thing. Unfortunately, we have reached a stage where songs are presented just for entertainment. The presence of a large number of TV channels helped in this by presenting songs that have no value and depend on vulgar words. Therefore, you find these songs have a very short life, and this is a very unfortunate thing.
Why do we not see you in cinematic works?
Cinema now no longer suits me but I can perform a musical show because I am a singer. The role of the singer satiates me artistically. But I very much like working on television for the reasons I mentioned earlier. As for cinema, it has taken advantage of freedom in the wrong way. All films have become full of decadence, murder, slums, and gloom. They say that this is the reality and this, in my view, is a misunderstanding. The main goal of art is to improve people’s taste, not degrade it. We are now degrading ourselves in front of the world and I am asking filmmakers to have mercy on us.
Is it true what is rumored about your presentation of a TV programme that tells the story of your life?
This is not true. I got many tempting offers but I am not convinced, as it is difficult.
Why is it difficult?
Because even if I present the story of my life impartially while I am alive, it will explain that I am trading my art history and I am not ready for that.
But there are many stars that have done this. What is the objection to going through the experience?
Everyone is free, and I think that it is not right for the artist to force himself and present a programme that speaks about him, and says I did such and such and I got prizes here and achieved success there. Then people come talking just because they are guests in the program for a fee. Therefore, the process is commercial. I want people to honour me without coercion for the work to be credible.
What do you expect for the music industry in the coming period?
We are living through a very difficult period, which is considered a historical turning point, not only in the field of music but also in cinema. This is because of online thefts and piracy of music. As for the films, you can find them on the sidewalks at the time they are shown in the cinema. So, this is sure to affect the industry in a big way. I hope that the judiciary will punish these pirates with a deterrent punishment of no less than 25 years in prison and a fine of no less than 5 million pounds so that the punishment will be a deterrent.
Do you follow all the musical works that are presented in the market?
Certainly not, because the arena was filled with many people, but every chance I had, I tried to listen to get to know what was new in the market.
Do you think that the problem experienced by the music industry will reduce the appearance of pseudo-singers?
I don’t think so, because in the days of the real singers the discoverer was the composer, but now there are no discoverers of real talent. In addition, song channels seek to fill the void on their channels, regardless of the quality of human voices that it provides. The voice is no longer the main factor for the singer’s success, as we are in the era of the image, and it is the most important now.
Is it possible to start composing your songs again?
Sure, it happens a lot, but I find many of them are not good, so I offer the speech to another composer and exclude the melody that I performed.
What are you keen on when choosing songs for the album?
I am always keen to diversify, renew and present new forms that I have not presented before in terms of the idea of speech or musical arrangement that suits me and is in line with me.
What is the magic recipe for your frequent and renewed activity during the last period?
During the Corona period, I felt that working in the Musicians’ Syndicate took away a little of my artistic work, and I decided to pay more attention to Hani Shaker, the artist, and to be very present on social media with my work.
I decided to focus on releasing Singles’ songs after the album became uncommon like before, and I presented various works, and I promised the audience to present everything new during the coming period.
When will you stop running for president in the Musicians Syndicate? What is your assessment of this experience?
My work in the Musicians’ Syndicate is very tiring and stressful and needs to be monitored 24 hours a day because its details are many, and I will reconsider my candidacy after the end of the current four years.
My colleagues and I in the union council went through a new experience for all of us, and the corona pandemic was a great challenge that we faced despite the lack of parties and incoming, but we were able to cover all requirements and pensions, and the union was still able to fulfill its obligations and “stand on its feet.
If you go inside my heart, you will find that the decision to run again is difficult…that is enough.
The union, with its details and problems, took me from my art, me, my family, and my private life, and I tried as much as possible to balance between Hani Shaker, the artist, and the head of the union, but I got tired a lot.
The Ministry of Culture and you, as chair of the Musicians’ Syndicate, are waging a battle of awareness to combat extremist ideas in arts and culture. When will you launch an initiative to this end?
There is not necessarily tangible technical cooperation, but there is intellectual cooperation. We are united in our idea and message, and we are waging fierce wars to fight extremist ideas and kitsch. This is because kitsch is more dangerous and deadly to our children than drugs. The Egyptian Opera House presents respectful art, and it bears a great and important responsibility, which is to present fine art to the new and current generations, especially after it succeeded in attracting the young generation that is flocking to its various theatres.
And what steps are you taking as a head of musicians to maintain high-end singing?
A committee was formed more than 10 days ago, including senior composers and musicians such as Dr. Amjad Al-Atafi, Dr. Jihan Morsi, composer Salah Al-Sharnoubi, and other great musicians to approve the results of the exam that the singers of the new waves of songs such as Amr Kamal and Hassan Shakoush did, with great impartiality. Those who successfully pass the test must obtain membership or a permit to sing, stamped with the seal of the union. Because art is a message and not an ordinary profession to earn money, I refuse to practice this profession under the wing of the union by someone who does not appreciate its value.
Do you regret running for the head of the Musicians’ Syndicate?
Many people criticised me harshly. But I am in a position that needs critical decisions, and after the support I received, I felt the value of the union, and currently, I have no regrets.
Will you again run for the head of the Musicians’ Syndicate?
No, I will not run again as I want to take a break and stay away from public work and focus on singing only.