Moon Knight‘s use of a controversial and typically censored genre of Egyptian music has provoked a strong reaction in Egypt.
Moon Knight explores the MCU outside the United States, kicking things off in England before its central characters travel to Egypt. Given that Moon Knight derives his powers from the ancient Egyptian moon god, Khonshu, taking the character to Egypt was a natural move and one that director Mohamed Diab wanted to handle sensitively and appropriately. The director was eager to give audiences a look at the real Egypt and this included elements of Egyptian culture that had historically been censored.
In Moon Knight‘s third episode, the song “Salka” by Hassan Shakosh is played as Oscar Isaac’s Marc Spector and May Calamawy’s Layla El-Faouly take a boat down the Nile. The song is in the controversial genre of Mahraganat, which has previously been banned by the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate. Shakosh himself has been censored in Egypt.
Mahraganat has been branded too vulgar and too political by Egyptian authorities. The music, which was pioneered by DJs and MCs in Egypt’s working-class districts, speaks to the struggle of Egypt’s working class, commenting on the nation’s political culture. While “Salka,” which roughly translates to “Unobstructed” in English, isn’t overtly political, it is a song about the strength of Egypt’s working class.
Director Mohamed Diab has talked about showing these overlooked elements of Egyptian culture in his efforts to portray a less stereotypical Egypt in Moon Knight. Speaking recently to Vox, Diab said:
“One challenge that was very important for me was how to portray Egypt, because we’re always seen in a way that is very orientalist, always seen in a way that is very stereotypical.”
Dartmouth University historian Andrew Simon has said Mahraganat “reveals a struggle over what Egyptian culture is, and who has the right to shape it,” revealing its inclusion in Moon Knight “is all much to the dismay of Egyptian authorities at a point in time when they’re actively trying to silence the genre.” Mohamed Diab is clearly not interested in allowing the voice and the art of Egypt’s working class to be silenced.
Here is the synopsis for Moon Knight:
The series follows Steven Grant, a mild-mannered gift-shop employee, who becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life. Steven discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector. As Steven/Marc’s enemies converge upon them, they must navigate their complex identities while thrust into a deadly mystery among the powerful gods of Egypt.
Created by Jeremy Slater, the Disney Plus series stars Oscar Isaac, May Calamawy, Karim El Hakim, F. Murray Abraham, Ethan Hawke, Ann Akinjirin, David Ganly, Khalid Abdalla, Gaspard Ulliel, Antonia Salib, Fernanda Andrade, Rey Lucas, Sofia Danu, and Saba Mubarak.
Moon Knight is now steaming on Disney Plus. Stay tuned for all the latest news surrounding the future of the charater, and be sure to subscribe to Heroic Hollywood’s YouTube channel for more original video content.