Arab Idol fans; it’s less than 30 days before the launch of the second season.
Season 2 of the hit show based on the American Idol format  will launch on MBC 1 and MBC Masr in the first week of March, it has been confirmed. To celebrate, the programme’s four judges – Lebanese superstars Nancy Ajram and Ragheb Alama, Emirati singer Ahlam and musician Hassan Al Shafei – attended a press conference at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel in Dubai last week to talk about their search for the next superstar. Also making an appearance was Arab Idol 1 winner Carmen Sulaiman.
According to MBC, Arab Idol 2 attracted more than 25,000 auditionees from around the Arab world , and the judges themselves admit that there was a lot more talent to meet this year. The programme has incorporated a few changes, the biggest being the addition of a fourth judge in the form of Ajram. Arguably the biggest star in the Arab world – not to mention one of the most influential in the region – there’s no doubt that Ajram’s star power will attract thousands more viewers to the already huge show. Plus, with the news that Elie Saab will be dressing the singer for the whole season, all eyes will be on the gorgeous performer and her outfit choices.
Other changes to Season 2 will include more live shows, as well as the appointment of new host Ahmad Fahmy. The Egyptian singer and actor rose to fame in the early 2000s with the boyband WAMA.
Here are snippets from the press conference:
On the addition of Ajram as a fourth judge:
Nancy Ajram: “I am really happy to have signed on as a judge on Arab Idol 2. It’s something really new to me, so I was quite scared when I first started, but now I couldn’t be happier. We’ve got a great team, and it has been a lot of fun. And there are a lot of future stars out there. Last year, I used to watch the programme from time to time, and the fact that it is a really well made competition with a huge following is what attracted me to sign on.”
On Season 2:
Ragheb Alama : “Our aim was to bring 20 finalists to the live shows, but the pool of talent was so large that we just couldn’t. So I can reveal that 27 singers will be going through to the live shows.”
On the judging panel:
Hassan Al Shafie: “We’re quite different from last year — I think there’s more agreement between us, and I think that’s down to the talent we met. Because we attracted so many amazingly talented individuals, it was hard for us to argue over them. Personally, I met a lot of auditionees with star quality this year; I really thought they were the top of their league. And I really am bad at giving compliments, so I truly mean it when I say we have met a lot of future stars.”
On rivalry on the panel:
Ajram: “There’s no rivalry on the panel. People want to create a big deal, but Ahlam and myself are very different personalities.”
On Alama’s relationship with Ahlam:
Alama: “I have a lot of love and respect for Ahlam, but I am going to be upfront with you: my character is not compatible with hers ! But surprisingly we agreed on a few things this year.”
Ahlam: “I recall last year, I literally signed the contract for Arab Idol just before the press conference took place, so I wasn’t really sure of what to expect. But now that I know, so I am watching you Ragheb.”
On the fashion:
Ajram: “I’ll be dressed by Elie Saab throughout the season, and I think most of the choices have already been made.”
Ahlam: “I’m working with my stylist on a variety of looks, and I think half of my wardrobe for the season is ready now.”
The judges’ response to having an entertainment show during troubling times in the region:
Al Shafie: “Even back in times of war, there was music. Not because people were happy and going around dancing and singing, but because music is an art and form of expression. And for many people it is also a job, and you cannot just stop doing your job when times are tough.”
Ajram: “I just want to add, that I really hope the Egypt that we love comes back to us soon.”
Advice to new contestants:
Carmen Sulaiman: “To whoever makes it into the live shows, I say enjoy it and really try to make the most out of every moment. It is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
By Rachel McArthur, Special to tabloid!