You've heard the expression it's not over till the Japanese lady sings Arabic classics? Well, Dubai was in for a twist in fate that took us beyond the usual suspects in Arab Idol auditions, when a Japanese woman took to the stage to sing Fairouz. The 29-year-old woman from Japan brought the stadium to its knees with her stellar performance of the Fairouz favourite, Aatini al Nai.
Nao Koyasu--whose grasp of the Arabic tongue might remind some of you of Jennifer Grout’s third-place finish in last year’s Arabs’ Got Talent -- further stunned judges with her classical Arabic delivery when not singing, sticking to the Lebanese colloquial in the song. Koyasu may just be the only person in Japan to sing in the language. She explained that she meticulously memorises each song by writing the lyrics over and over. Worth the second round place and the selifie bonus she was offered with the thrilled and novelty struck judge panel!
As Koyasu left the room with her golden ticket and came face to face with the Arab Idol host Ahmed Fahmy – the Egyptian singer and songwriter who used to be part of the boy band WAMA – she froze and gave every indication that she had fallen in love at first sight. She breathed out one word as she stared at Fahmy: “Jameel”. In Arabic, it means beautiful.
Still, besides, the token Japanese contestant, one Emirati made it through the first round -- 23-year-old Humeid Abdulla, from Fujairah, performing a Khaleeji number. It might have been a slow starter but he soon came into his own, winning votes of confidence from the audience and judges alike.
With four singers through to the next round, the Jumeriah Beach Hotel venue apparently presented the competition with a tough challenge. What's more Arab Idol's judge crew came with less 'charge' or electrical current than previously under the Alama-Ahlam era of chemistry or mutual hositily! Step in WaelKfourywho takes the Ragheb Alama hot seat.
Alama did not mince his words when discussing his heated dynamic with his partner in crime Ahlam and the dangerous duo they made on the show.. Back when The National broached the topic with him previous to his unexpected pull-out months before the third season rolled, he said “At a personal level, I have nothing against Ahlam. But I also must say that some of the things she says to the contestants on the show are too negative and that is something that I can never accept.”
Kfoury has wasted no time getting aclimatized to the ruthless role! While The National reports his healthy camaraderie with the feisty Ahlam, he also has no particular with Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram and the Egyptian music producer Hassan El Shafei.
The episode began with a recap of the auditions that were held on the Beirut leg of the Middle East tour. This year, in addition to the regular route of Cairo, Beirut, Alexandria, Dubai, Erbil and Casablanca – the judging panel made stops at several new potential talent pools in the search for Arab idols: Paris, Algiers, Berlin, Bahrain, Kuwait and Palestine.
The National reports that seven contestants came through from the Beirut battle, with the Lebanese contestants a bit funny about performing before Kfoury, and was it any wonder with the judge not giving them the copatriot break they may have dreamed of.
When it came to Ridwan Sadek, a 24-year-old from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, Kfoury said: “There’s no doubt you have a strong voice and can sing, but why are you showing off like this? We have been singing for years but we wouldn’t dare add to a song like you are adding?”
Still, Sadek came through largely unbruised by the Wael Kfoury ribbing. The rest of the panel pack were not much kinder and throughout the show, one contestant (who carried a tune just fine!) was asked if he 'scared people back home' by Judge Hassan.
Maybe giving it too much of the Simon Cowell.
“Do you realise that 99 per cent of the people who come in here and sing one of my songs get a big ‘no’ from us?” Kfoury asked one of them.
The episode also featured Cairo's candidates, with another seven contestants advancing.
The city, the National reminds us, is a big hitter for contestants because it is where last season’s winner Mohammad Assaf, a Palestinian, auditioned. Since then Assaf, who became a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN and a Youth Ambassador to UNRWA, has become an international superstar, finishing his victory round by singing in the opening ceremony of the World Cup at Brazil. The 24-year-old was also scheduled to perform in Abu Dhabi last month only to pull the plug due to the political crisis that had engulfed Gaza. While that concert is expected to be rescheduled, he is also expected to perform on November 20 at Yas Island’s du Arena as part of the F1 concerts, reports The National.
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