Why Can't Travis Scott Perform in Egypt? Middle Eastern Experts Explain

The answer is layered.


Last week, Travis Scott’s Utopia release concert came to an end before it could even begin. After a couple of weeks of uncertainty surrounding his planned performance at Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, La Flame announced that the show wouldn’t be happening—at least not on its planned date of July 28. 

“Egypt at the pyramids will happen, but due to demand and detail logistics, they just need a bit a time to set lay on lands. I will keep u posted on a date which will be soon love you all,” he wrote on July 26. While his explanation is in line with Live Nation’s statement on the matter, the plot appears to be much thicker. 

Before Scott or Live Nation addressed the concert, the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate issued a statement explaining they had canceled the Houston rapper’s license for the concert, and their explanation had nothing to do with show logistics. 

“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 license issued for hosting this type of concert, which goes against the cultural identity of the Egyptian people,” the Syndicate said. 

For his part, in his own statement, Scott claimed that the social media posts were generated by bots before dismissing claims of any ulterior motives or messages with his shows. 

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Scott says in the statement. “My only intent with live performances is to unite people around the world over a shared bond in music. As a matter of fact, I just successfully played in an incredibly conservative Saudi Arabia in April for a crowd of 70,000 fans and there was no issue, hiccup or complication whatsoever. (Ask their Minister of Culture Prince Bader bin Farhan Al-Saud or see the positive press reviews here). My music brings together all cultures and spreads positive messages of empowerment and creative freedom. There is not a single lyric I have written or recording I have made that advocates or endorses anything derogatory to any people, much less the Egyptian people. Nothing in my music lends itself to any kind of "strange ritual." My performances are celebrations. I only want to lift people up. My new album is entitled ’Utopia,’ which is emblematic of my desire to accomplish that goal. I am a great admirer of Egyptian culture and history. That is why I selected the iconic Pyramids of Giza to perform and preview my first album release in five years. It means that much to me.”

Amid numerous cancellations and contradicting messaging, the Syndicate’s vague statement sparks more questions than answers. What are the “peculiar rituals” they speak of? What are their “authentic societal values and traditions,” and what about Scott’s mid-show theatrics are at odds with them? 

To date, other American acts like the Grateful Dead (1978) and Mariah Carey (2010) have been able to take the stage at Giza, so what about Travis Scott’s brand of showmanship made the notion of his performance so unacceptable? 

The answer seems to be a layered one, rooted in regional politics and perceived occult symbolism that goes back decades. In conversation with experts on Middle Eastern culture, we address the underlying question: Why can’t Travis Scott perform at the pyramids?

Astroworld Festival Catastrophe

During Travis Scott’s performance at the Astroworld Festival in November 2021,10 people died as a result of a sudden crowd rush. While many in the public blamed Scott for what transpired, a Texas grand jury declined to press criminal chargesagainst the rapper. Despite this, lawyer Amr Abdelsalam told Al-Araby TV that Scott was responsible for the lost lives, and that his music facilitated the tragedy.

"The well-being of Egyptian citizens is more important to us than holding such a show, and justifying it by saying we need to invigorate tourism,” he said before incorrectly claiming that Scott was banned from performing in the United States and that “dozens were killed” during the event. "Eyewitnesses reported that the type of music he was playing radiated negative energy, and bizarre things happened to people who attended the show."

Egypt at the pyramids will happen
But due to demand and detail logistics
They just need a bit a time to set lay on lands. I will keep u posted on a date which will be soon love you alllll

— TRAVIS SCOTT (@trvisXX) July 26, 2023
Twitter: @trvisXX

Travis Scott’s Alleged Masonry Symbolism

A chief concern of the Syndicate and many other Egyptians is focused on iconography featured in some of Travis Scott’s work. They say that symbolism has connections to the Freemasons, a fraternal organization that was formed in Europe during the 13th century. Over the years, the clandestine group has come to include plenty of men with political influence, and that, combined with their secretive ways, has made them the focus of various conspiracy theories. Speaking to Al-Araby TV, Abdelsalam claimed that Scott performs “satanic rites” during his shows, and that Scott is a “staunch supporter of global Freemasonry,” making him unfit to perform at the pyramids. 

On Twitter, you can see posts comparing Travis Scott’s Astroworld cover to an image of Moloch, a Canaanite god associated with child sacrifice. After seeing several social media posts that included scenes from Travis Scott's performances and theories related to Masonry sent to them from concerned users, the Syndicate made their decision to cancel Scott’s license.

In conversation with Complex, Ali Adeeb Alnaemi, who is a Clinical Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, notes a fundamentally adversarial relationship between the Freemasons and people in the Middle East. 

“Freemasons are, in the Middle East in general, associated with a lot of conspiracies against Arabs and Muslims,” he shares. “If you say about someone that he's associated with Freemasons, he's completely discredited. It's an accusation of being like an agent to an evil force.” 

Egyptian Conservatism

Will Travis Scott Be Able to Perform in Egypt?

While Travis is all set to perform in Rome, it remains to be seen if he’ll ever get to hit the stage in Egypt. At least one expert we spoke to is skeptical it will happen soon, as that type of move could require a change in the Syndicate. 

"In order for Travis Scott to be invited to Egypt again, we need to see some changes in the leadership of the Musicians Syndicate, and there should be a media campaign to counter the accusations about the ’anti-Egyptian culture’ practices in his concert,” says Alnaemi.

He continues: “I think this needs time. I’m not sure if he can do it, for instance, this year. But maybe it could happen in the near future, provided it is well presented to the public to avoid any misconceptions. I believe he has a lot of Egyptian fans who would like to see him perform, especially the younger generation, who are culturally closer to the West. Their voices were clear on social media in opposing the cancellation of his concert."

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