By: Muhammed Shamaa
From Morocco all the way to Oman, the door is wide open for Arabs to showcase their talents. Arabs Got Talent, which is the Arabic version of Americas Got Talent, started its first season in the entertainment capital of the Arab world, Beirut. Produced by MBC Network, an influential pan-Arab satellite channel which has under its belt many entertainment and news outlets, the show is a replica of its American and British counterparts done for the first time for an Arabic audience.
Interestingly enough, the show introduced some extraordinary talents of Moroccans, Tunisians, Syrians, Lebanese, Emiratis and many other Arab nationalities. Michael Jackson’s dancing addicts, drawing geniuses, poetry lovers, athletes, young and older singers, magicians and much more had the chance to demonstrate their remarkable capabilities to the Arab audience. Unlike its American twin, in which the winner would get a jaw-dropping Las Vegas contract, the participants in the Arabic version were competing for a grand prize of 500.000 Saudi Riyals and a brand new Chevrolet Camaro.
British judges on American entertainment shows have been widely known as controversial, and at many times, a nuance. On the other hand, the panel of judges in Arabs Got Talent was a mix of mostly harmonious three experts in the entertainment industry. Najwa Karam, the Lebanese singer, is the female judge and the popular singer in the Arab world. Amr Adib is the Egyptian anchor who is greatly controversial in Egypt. Ali Jaber is a Lebanese media guru and the dean of the Mohammed bin Rashed School For Communication in the American University in Dubai. The show might have needed more of a “Piers Morgan” or a “Simon Cowell” type of personality to make it more edgy and nervous. Nevertheless, those three judges were at many times at odds with each other in regards to decisions and choices, but nothing greatly arguable.
Arabs Got Talent is a nice attempt to move away from being exclusively cornered in singing competitions. For many years, competitions of this sort have focused only on the vocal capabilities of Arabs, especially with the production of an “American Idol” Arabic version several years ago. However, the talent show faces the challenge of being able to continue for more future seasons, especially with the ongoing instability in many parts of the Arab world.
The grand prize was attractive enough to make the effort worthwhile especially that many of the competitors came from middle or low income social layers. Many of the participants were witty and came for the fun of it, even though they did not necessarily have the talents that would qualify them to next rounds. Those were nice additions to the show and contributed to its popularity, but the true talents were the milestone that gave the show the edge it needed to attract more audience.
The winner of the first season of Arabs Got Talent was Amr Katamesh, an Egyptian poet whose poetry was hilariously funny that made hearts laugh, yet so serious that made eyes cry. Katamesh was able to win the hearts and minds of Arabs after his poetry introduced vivid images of the current Arab revolutions and the flowery future that is awaiting Arabs who overthrew their regimes. His mix between poetry, entertainment, and dancing enriched his portfolio and introduced him as a promising talent with a bright future.
Arabs Got Talent has proved that the Arab world is rich in talents. These gems have been hidden for a long time waiting for an outlet. The interests of Arabs in general might more often be diverted towards everyday life necessities due to the prevailing economic conditions. Nevertheless, many of them still keep their hopes and talents alive for mere personal satisfaction, hoping that some day they will be recognized on a wider level. And that day has come!