The final episode of Arabs Got Talent  gave us a top three race-finish before the Arabs had their winner. Lesser favorites for the prize but very deserving for their innovation, Saudi group "Deep Thoughts" took the ticket as the Arab Talent of the second season of the show, filmed in Beirut. Twists and turns came more from the judge's reversed behavior roles than from contestant upsets or surprises.
The final draw came down to the Emirati 18-year-old singer-songwriter guitarist  vying for the prize against KSA's illusionist collective Khawater Al Thalam (Thoughts of Darkness) as well as another teen singer, 14 year-old Algerian Dalia Sheeh in what was a well-rounded finishing to the talent show's 2012 installment.
The winners certainly took all in terms of prize booty- having bagged 500,000 Saudi riyals (133, 398 USD) ) and a new Camaro Chevy - but in terms of fame, they share this with the other 11 finalists and not least the other finalists Shamda and Dalia, though they have certainly a surefire guarantee of stardom across more than the Saudi Kingdom.
The judges stripped of their panel powers for the final -relegated to playing a non-instrumental role - now that the crunch decision was in the hands of the 'people' - were left being mainly supportive of the acts. Which certainly took some of the tension out of the show.
They unanimously agreed that all 12 finalists  who had already come this far, would be big hits in the Arab world, in the spirit of this talent show that showcases more than just one winner. regardless of the winner. These dozen finalists included - apart from the top 3 Emirati guitarist-singer, Algerian soul-singer and light show illusion artists - also a Moroccan drumming ensemble, an Egyptian acrobat and a Jordanian inventor of the musical straw.
Najwa Karam was the picture of Arab beauty in her stunning red dress by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad. Judge Ali Jaber was less the straight-talking villainous judge and more the voice of reason and fairness, keeping in check fellow judges (rebuking co-judge Nasser al-Qassabi for inserting his own critiques and judgement on this show where there was no call for it).
Presenter Raya Abi Rashid surprised the audience by giving it some of her own 'talent' when she flew down on a swing onto the stage. Raya wanted to do something different in her method of presentation, she was applauded and greeted by the audience and her co- host Qusai Khader.
The Egyptian circus performer Hussein Ramsy had both male judges catching their throats and clutching their hearts, at his white-knuckle feat of man over glass: He precariously balanced on top of cylinders with trays of bottles all the while twirling some lit fire torches and juggling multiple pins. Najwa- the more fainthearted of the panel, commented more on his fearlessness than her own apprehensions for him.
The operatic act by Lebanese opera singer Maxim Al Shami went down a treat. Given his Russian costume, and popular song, Najwa's comment covered all bases: "Maxim does not surprise me, no matter how tough the song, he has the voice, the focus, he is what's more savvy in his choice of song for showing off his talent." Ali concurred with Najwa while Nasser chimed in to emphasize the challenge stacked against an Arabic opera man: With this form of music not native to the culture, he felt he should he be given the chance to become the winner as he would be the a pivotal bridge to this genre of classic song in the Arab world.
Once again Saudi contestant Mohannad Al Jamili had those who appreciated his style of 'funny' in stitches...The 'silly' Saudi comic Muhannad Al Jameely's act once again featured the judges in his comic routine. During his banter on marriage and bewailing its pitfalls, he turned his comic menace on his favorite judge, by his piece de resistance that had him proposing to the Lebanese pop-icon judge Najwa Karam. Najwa was not be the laughing stock here, as she came back at him with a known Arab expression, applied to holding out and starving for a good meal: "I fasted and fasted only to marry you?" adding, "what will Ali and Naser and the audience think of me?" Nasser Al Qasabi in a bid to rib fellow judge and joke partner Najwa, offered to the finalist "you got my attention with your ambition, and you capped your ambition by desiring to marry Najwa, - it doesn't get more ambitious than that". Ali Jaber was supportive as Ali Jaber gets, " I think you've already become a star, with a big future ahead of you. It won't be long before we see you on the small screen, but get ahead of yourself and think you are the Turkish Mohannad" (Arab world's heart throb). The Saudi cheeky man retorted with "I'm the Saudi Mohannad".
Algerian young thing Dalia Al Sheehan, came on to impress all in her complete new look. She was able flexed her "singing muscles" for all to hear, which won her a tribute clap from the audience. Ali sang her praises: "you have become international Dalia", Nasser went as far as to throw in his weight behind her for the title; while Najwa offered," There are few people who can assemble their voice like a guitar, you are one of those people". The Jordanian feel good organ of the final show was instrumentalist Hasan Al Menawi was able to divide the judges, in a turn of tides that saw Naser Al Qasabi poach Ali's strictness with the contestants. Ali by the same token defended the inventor of the drinking straw wind intstrument. Accompanied by a backing ensemble, he performed some classical Arabic dabka music that go the crowd going.
Mr 'Nice-Guy' Nasser Al-Qasabi gets nasty?
Maher Al Shiek the Syrian hip hop dancer was possibly the most disappointed, if not disappointing, act of the final show-down. Judge Nasser was perhaps out of line, since it were not for a change the judges' place to head up the eliminations. "I like Maher, but I am upset with his performance, I know he has better abilities. Today the show was not the 'skillful' Maher we know and love. Najwa worked in her diplomatic touch, saying "We (the show) did what we had to do, we got you this far the rest is up to the viewers' voting". As for Ali he insisted on jabbing at Nasser by saying, "Nasser forgot that his opinion doesn't matter anymore..it's up to the viewer now...on the people vote counts". This all-out war left Najwa waving a white tissue, appointing herself "the dove of peace" for the episode.
Nasser's other victim was our darling Emirati singer Shamma Hamdan giving the final another acoustic guitar Gulfi special. "To be honest with you, I think it could have been better," he said, to boos from the audience. Najwa still gave her positive input, declaring how enchanted she was by Shamma's romantic mood that reminded her of "Romeo and Juliet". Nasser did concede that Shamma "is the new hopeful voice of the Gulf."
The audience were on their toes for acrobatic Egyptian man Radwan Al Shalbawi's stunts. He gave us his usual mix of dangerous circus acts, which left an exasperated Najwa accusing him of having a death-wish. Once more, the men judges were not shy to admit they had been very afraid.
Judges pronnounce performers 'stars'
"You don't need our say-so: you have already become a star" this summed up Nasser's high opinion of Lebanese singer Manal Mallat. Ali carried on, "The song you chose was great, you are now a star". Najwa was not going to be left out in the praise-wars, and so contributed: "You have a lovely presence on stage which you own, you are pretty and you voice is pretty too...you are wonderful". In any other context, or indeed language, this might have been somewhat nauseating. Especially seeing the Simon Cowell (Ali Jaber) of the show come-off all nice and gushing with niceties.
Moroccan Over Boys were nothing if not over-zealous and radiating energy and fun as always. The judges' comments were lavish in their praise and as 'over' the top as they could be in their reduced role. Ali Jaber said, "it's the first time that I enjoy percussion and chaotic sound like this" Naser agreed with Ali's (for a rare occasion this show!) "You shook us up with your performance, your beat is an art." Najwa single out an individual female member called "Hagar", with "Your face is so expressive."From Ocean to the Amazon, Arabs Got Talent , swept us from aquatic life to jungle landscape for the next two performances from Saudi collective "Deep or Dark Thoughts" and Moroccan animal-act "La Halla King Zoo".Deep Thoughts' performance was saturated in fish, shells and sharks in the darkness of the deep sea. They simulated the illusionary narrative of a deep sea diver swimming the obstacle course of sharks and sealife to mine a pearl.Their idea went down well with the harder to please Nasser, who said freely "you are wonderful, your idea of capturing the ocean is great, I nominate you to become the winners!" (Hadn't he said that to someone else earlier?). Transported from underworld ocean to overland Amazonian jungle, La Halla King Zoo succeeded in putting the audience into a tropical mood, with their convincing rainforest performance, rich in personified animals and their struggles against the hunting rifle. A polished professional performance said the Judges. Ali had a special mention for their recovered injured player, who sustained his injury a show ago. "Your act was great, it was full of creativity...pure creativity, it's good to have your injured team member back".Finally, the race to the finish of Arabs Got Talent  the talent contest that had showcased a motley collection of Arab ability, ended. The audience went with the entrancing "Deep Thoughts". Arabs and especially Saudis rejoiced at this Arabian curtain-call to the program's second season.
The 13-member troupe won using their silent theater act of illusions via a glow-in-the-dark mixed set of props.
Speaking on the winning group's next move, the Khawater Al Thalam leader Mamdouh Khidary said the grand plan was to perform on one of the biggest stages of all.
"Our goal is Las Vegas," he said.
The group (collecitvely, true to form of synchrnozed motions) jumped for joy when announced and presented with their Chevrolet Camero and there were man-hugs and man-tears a-plenty. Saudi stardom greeted them from now.The show was not without controversy and a shred of suspicion toward Khawater al Thalam's (Deep Thoughts) clean sweep. Rumors of infringements and results being tampered with were soon addressed by Mazen Hayek, the spokesperson for MBC denying such allegations and reminding all that they had a lot at stake and would not mess about with strong reputation: "We do not interfere with the voting of the viewers, we do not play around with our credibility, we do not joke about this. This issue affects our reputation and our credibility with the public. The advertisers also have no say in the matter. MBC will not risk its reputation of 20 years for the sake of tampering with votes. This is not a joke". And so after a heated, breath-holding build-up , the drama of an Arabic talent show  came to a close.