AGT 4th Semis: musical straws, male ballet, and Morocco meets India
Arabs Got Talent was back last week for the fourth semi-final in its regular progamming slot, crammed full of highs and lows, all the way to a deep place with Saudi group "Deep Thoughts" and Jordanian straw-man, Hasan Menawi, measuring up as 'finals' material. The episode was a treat and a half, from Indian dance to drinking straw orchestra and Arab male ballet and child Charlie Chaplin!
Moroccan contestant Widad Seeri spiced up the stage with her unique Indian dancing skills. The contestant raised some brows after her first auditioning performance, when she declared her three-word adoration for comedy Saudi judge Nasser Al Qasabi, "I love you". After her second performance Nasser flipped the sentiment back on her: "What have you done to us? I am the one who loves you". Judge Jaber had a differing opinion, so he skirted on the safe edge when he said, "I don't know if Nasser will do anything to me if I say something wrong". He admitted that he would have liked to see Widad up the Arab-factor in her act with some belly dancing. Najwa concurred.
Palestinian hopeful Ammar Abu Ajeenah was not able to cut the mustard with the two male judges, Ali Jaber or Nasser Al Qasabi via his beat-boxing blast effort. The rejection buzzers of both Ali and Naser went off for the first time since the beginning of the semi finals. Ali observed that while the performance began with beat-boxing, he had no idea what it ended with. Naser agreed saying he added no value or novelty to the first performance. Najwa came to his defense, breaking down what had gone wrong: "The problem was that Ammar's rapid movements between beats was not easily comprehended -- there were no break opportunities so that the audience could enter into the beat. That doesn't mean that he is not gifted".
The Saudi group "Deep Thoughts" who spun an altered state of reality into fantasy with the help of some snazzy lighting special effects presented a show that was highly commended by the judges. These enlightened guys - all 14-strong - had more than just entertainment on their mind. They delivered a worthy message to children about the importance of education and knowledge. Their message was reinforced by child performer "Sakaker" who joined the show. The judges sang their praises, highlighting the band's seamless coordination and harmony.
Hail to the mighty musical straw!
Jordanian contestant Hasan Menawi used two drinking straws for his performance, each one piping out a different register. He stuck to the straight kind rather than the bendy twisty variety. He was able to lead a whole (non-straw) orchestra using his straw instrumentals to play, conduct and lead.
Judge Jaber thanked Judge-ette Karam, for suggesting to Menawi that he should have fine-tuned his own-invented musical instrument, while praising the performance and predicting a vital role in music for the "straw". His honorable Nasser Al Qasabi approved, rejecting the great expectations endowed on the "straw", securing a regular role in orchestras, simply because, he fawned, it's not an easy instrument - only a talented person like Menawi could perform wonders on it.
The double Jordanian act of Rami & Kot was accompanied by a lot of hype. They created a sort of musical play-off between two musical traditions-- the one, oriental music, the other western. They performed in musical competition, with the Middle Eastern music coming up trumps. A bit more judicial drama and a scuffle as Nasser Al Qasabi interjected to comment before Ali could ram his rejection buzzer. The feel-good audience took sides with Nasser, echoed by the ever-sympathetic Najwa. The Audience booed Ali, who to his credit did allow that they were true artistes.
A mad buzz was created by Lebanese child performer Jad Subieh, who treated us to a prodigious mixture of dancing and rapping. In addition to material presented before, Jad pulled out a snippet of Charlie Chaplin - impersonating him asking the judges to take care of the 'talented child'. The audience weren't about to give Ali the chance to criticize the performance as they kept booing at his comments no sooner than he lunged for the microphone. Najwa backed the audience, promoting Jad as a phenomenon saying that adults couldn't perform that feats that he put on. She then gave the show her personal -"heart-filled"- touch, by ascending the stage to give him a kiss on both cheeks, bringing him down in front of the tough cookie Ali so that he could give him a kiss as well.
The Moroccan group Rabat Funk presented a mixture of the King of Pop Jacko and hip-hop. The judges extolled their moves, but they commented that the emphasis on music over technique showed, working on the back of the audience enjoying Michael's music more than the dancing.
Contestant Mohammad Hamid for Egypt presented a virtuosic ballet performance, together with a share of his feelings on the under-appreciated, 'emasculating' male dance form. He admitted he was bothered that he got likened to girls because of his choice of dance, as well as criticised for trying to hijack what is viewed as a female preserve. The Egyptian contestant added his added motivation for joining AGT was to dispel this myth of female exclusivity and to raise awareness in the Middle East for ballet as a unisex dance form.
The Saudi light-tricksters "Deep Thoughts" worked their way to the final round of Arabs Got Talent, after notching up the highest amount of viewer votes. The judges after being in turmoil and wrangling to and fro, prevaricating between Hindi offering Widad and the straw lot, threw in their weight behind the novelty straw musician, Hasan Menawi. These two will be pitted against one another, and others, in the finals for the grand Arab trophy.
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