The fifth episode of Arabs Got Talent (AGT), shown last week, was the penultimate of the recorded auditions for the live semi finals. Last Friday's show was marked by a good deal of talent and was not short on comedic elements to lighten the intensity of the competition either. It was a show to match the previous action-packed episodes. A recap edition, for those who have had weekend's away from their TV screens, to bring you up to speed with the latest 6th episode of this Friday 11th May: 5th episode content and best bits of the show. The 'long' of it, follows.
Kuwaiti contestant Bashayer Khalid, kicked the show off with her rendition of some Celine Dion. Despite the unanimous approval vote from the judges for her 'beautiful' voice, Najwa hesitated before committing to her 'Na'am' (Yes). Still, after a brief second of to buzz- or- not- to- buzz, her show business side took hold as she fell back under the spell of the competitive judicial camaraderie that has come to represent AGT. "I have a feeling that both Ali and Nasser are going to say yes, and they aren't more "generous" than me." (Another quip at her name- Arabic for generosity)
"Toni Crew", a Moroccan outfit made it through to the 'live level' by performing a mixed bag of dancing, acrobatics, gymnastics and circus wonders. The group came in outlandish costumes, appearing like they belonged somewhere far from the AGT stage, like, say, outer space. After their theatrical performance, Ali Jaber - the voice of tough love - served up his cool judgement with "I will say no to motivate you," while Najwa - the softer touch and generous soul - proffered, "I will say yes, to motivate you." Nasser Al Qasabi, who comes from a theatrical background, sealed the deal with his affirmative verdict - so that he bestowed the group with another chance. In AGT, two yes's are enough to survive.
After 12 years of diligent dancing, Maher Al Sheikh, a Syrian surreal contestant took to the stage with a taster of what he and his brother had between them concocted: a new cocktail of dancing that combined hip hop, comedy, acting, sound effect and body popping. He qualified for the next round with a convincing performance. During his sound-tight act, he managed to slip in a famous sentence by renowned actor Adel Imam, from the play "School of Horrors". He easily secured the judges' backing and some heart-felt praise from the panel, who, of course, say it like it is.
Ali Jaber, known for his draconian judging style, was surprisingly forgiving of Lebanese contestant Salim Henieh's very own dancing brand of Jacko (that is, Michael Jackson after a few too many shawarmas.) Judge Nasser Al Qasabi, was so moved that it looked like he'd jump on stage (see next paragraph, later in the show!) and join him. The judges agreed that the dancing itself was bad, but found a redeeming, something quirky about Salim - a sandwich vendor by profession - and it was this dramatic irony that pushed him through (so bad that it was good?). He words may have lifted his awkward dance routine a notch, with an inspiring introduction mentioning peace for Lebanon. He pronounced food an illusion, and only his dancing as real. Larger than life, his overweight yet muscular physique more than slightly jarred with his King of Pop, Michael Jackson dance-offering. His self confidence in combination with his earnest dancing gave his act a comedic slant, which worked its magic on even the stoniest judge, carrying him through alongside the arguably more talented picks, into the next level. Hurray for Lebanese sandwich men!
More judge ribbing and stage antics
Judge Nasser was less than convinced by Karim Al Baba, another Lebanese offering, who performed a circus number, juggling batons. He observed dismissively that he did not see anything special here, adding cockily that he could do the same. Too tempting not to jump on, this boasting prompted Najwa to invite him to go up on stage and show us what he was worth. Nasser then stepped up to the plate, giving the irreverent Tash ma Tash entertainer within some air-time. Najwa, delighted by her comrade's good sporting, went ahead and mock treble-buzzed him with all three rejection buzzers.
For the first time ever, an Arab group from Saudi competed with the Chinese in their traditional dance of the dragon. The Saudi group "Starsilat", a family act, lit up the stage with their appropriated and Saudized Chinese dance of the dragon and dance of the lion. They performed a synchronized choreography, and had the edge as the only group from the Gulf and indeed the Arab world who danced a Chinese dance usually passed down the generations, and watched by millions around the world during Chinese New Year celebrations.
With her revolutionary words, 29 year-old Hanan Al Awadi, a challenger from Tunisia, revived the spirit of the "Arab Spring", through poetry that tickled the judges' poetic bones, who appreciated some of her added flourishes. She praised women of the revolution for maintaining their feminine touch and softness, while exhibiting resilience and joining men on the frontlines. In the poem Hanan denounced the injustice visited upon the Tunisian people from the previous ruling regime, and gave it that extra dynamic framework when she revealed that she penned the poem on the night of ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali exile.
A Moroccan band generated waves of applause after their rythmic performance on a cornucopia of drums. They thrashed out a melange of East meets Latin on their sets, turning the stage into a carnival. "Overboys", the Moroccan ring of friends from the city of Silla, wanted the world to hear their brand of music. Their talent was showcased on this pan-Arab platform for now, delivering a unique flavor to the show, and carrying them through to the next hurdle.
11 year-old Lidya Al Asali, from Tunisia was able to 'bend' the judges reservations, and cartwheel her way to the next level, with her stretchy gymnastics entry. She had no professional training, which showed, said the panel, but her God-given flexibility was enough to propel her through. Najwa predicted a bright future for her should she be taken in hand by a professional, and Nasser seconded her verdict. Ali found her performance devoid of the 'dance' element promised with the gymnastic mix, but said he'd give her a second chance to integrate dance into her 'flexible' routine.
Egyptian contestant, Mohamed El Bieh, astounded the judges with his skill of playing the classical flute while "Beat boxing" at the same time. He was able to impress the judges with his innovative performance, and elicited some melodic words from Nasser Al Qasabi who sung his praise: "Mixing beat boxing with playing the flute is really nice, and more than just novelty; I got a real sense of the musicality"
"Sama Quartet", an Emirati band, frustrated Judge Jaber with their disappointing, drab, performance. The quartet of young men who came to their foursome with a college choir background, did not short-change us with their unique style of singing and carrying chords and harmony without musical support, and had hoped to win the judges' appeal by emphasizing that they were the first of their kind in the Arab world (barbershop style). Yet this pioneering status sealed their fate and downfall: the judges condemned them on these very grounds as carrying the weight of Arab expectations and owing it to the Arabs to do them proud with an exceptional, charming performance. Despite a second chance to pull out all the stops and improvise their way to the next round, they still blew it.
An Egyptian contestant by the name of Mohammed Azar, performed in the Rap category, but he spoke so fast (one of the downsides of the art rap) that not one word of what he said was understood by the judges. They tried strenuously to keep up but couldn't make out a word from this Arab artful dodger. Nasser took to the buzzer to express his distaste, protesting, "I can hardly understand your normal accent, and then you speak excitedly to me with a thousand words per minute expecting me to keep up, why...why?"
The piece de resistance came at the end of the show, leaving our stunned judges lost for words. The culprit of the commotion appeared in the form of a special Syrian contestant who liked to go as "Arab Eagle", suggesting greatness on a par with the awesome bird of prey. After his long-winded and hyped up introduction of himself and his band's concept, complete with compliments tailored for each of the judges,in typical Arab sycophancy (which was not to sway the judges, even the softer touches, Najwa and Nasser) he launched into his horrible dancing. He prefixed his act by waving a ridiculous crystal ball on stage, and within seconds Ali was the on the buzzer with Nasser fast on his heels. This dreadful display of mediocrity had Najwa and her fellow judges soon losing their composure, bursting into laughter, even to the point of tears in the case of our lady judge. The Eagle did not part so easily, however, with his delusions of grandeur, sharing his ambitious to compete on a world wide scale, and saying sorely, 'you ain't seen nothing yet - I held back my best cards'. Keep them back, was the jury's unwavering verdict.
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