Arabs got talent, yes. But can it be recognized?


By Hiba Zayadin

The Arab version of the Got Talent series kicked off on January 14 on MBC 4. It hogged the eyes of Arabs around the world – until the Egyptian protests broke out that is.

Rappers, child poets, a human beatbox, and a 70-something-year-old acrobat were all amongst the participants striving for recognition.
There I was, watching the first episode on YouTube with friends, all the way from Montreal, and I kept thinking to myself, “this is really something.”

There were funny performances, awe-inspiring acts, and some talents that were so completely unnecessary; you had to wonder how on earth they were first discovered. There was one aspect of the show, however, that just totally threw me off.

Meet the judges.

Ali Jaber is one of Arab media’s well-known sharks. He used to head Lebanon’s privately owned pan-Arab television channel ‘Future TV’. On the show, he seems to don the Simon Cowell outfit. He offers blunt and often controversial criticisms about the contestants and their abilities. What qualifications make him eligible to judge talent is beyond me.
Amr Adib, an Egyptian television presenter and interviewer, is a media personality known for his sense of humour. His bubbly demeanour is refreshing but tends to get on your nerves after a while.
Last but not least, you have the famous Lebanese singer, Najwa Karam. She’s quite popular across the Arab world and from what I gather, doesn’t seem ready to forego that privilege. She always has kind comments up her sleeve, even when she’s eliminating a contestant.

Judging talent isn’t easy, and setting aside their lack of originality –in that they’re trying so hard to be just like the judges on Britain’s Got Talent – this show’s judges might be suitable for their roles. Yet, in one poorly made decision, they pushed me towards expressing my disappointment online.

Jordanian Mouyad Abdo Mousa, accompanied by his father, arrived on set dressed in a neat plain black suit and carrying a violin case.  He is 15 years old and has only been playing the violin for four years now.

As he stepped up on stage, you could easily see how well this boy carried himself in front of people. He had poise and an air of calm about him.  The music he played that day was absolutely beautiful. Throughout his performance, you could sense the relationship he had with his violin.  The audience seemed to sense it, Najwa Karam loved it, but the other two judges slammed him down hard. It was shocking.

“I didn’t see anything ‘wow’ about it, how long can we listen to him?” Adeeb wondered out loud.

But of course, he a gave a little rapper kid, whose only apparent talent was cuteness, a standing ovation.
“The music didn’t pull me personally,” said Jaber, adding fuel to the fire. For me, personally, the fact that Mouyad played a traditional Arabic tune was enough to gain him a few extra points in my book.
After all, this is an Arabic talent show, shouldn’t there be a greater presence of Arabic elements? Most of what I saw involved mediocre renditions of Michael Jackson’s dancing and a few freak performances.
Honestly, how could you define a man’s ability to drill nails in his nostrils a talent? How could you unanimously vote for a man who would lie down on a bed of nails, place two huge bricks on his stomach and let his sons hammer down on him with axes? Why are we promoting such violent actions over beautiful music that encourages discipline, practice, and knowledge of the arts? Playing an instrument with such dexterity should be applauded and encouraged, not put down and yawned at.

See I’m not naïve or anything. I know most of those ‘talents’ were basically voted for to boost rating. But whilst accepting into the show batches of freak talents, the judges mustn’t let the little gems slip through their fingers.




  • Ola

    You said it, it’s all about ratings, show-biz is dirty business. And correct me if I’m wrong but I could still see traces of narrow nationalism among the judges…

  • Ola

    You said it, it’s all about ratings, show-biz is dirty business. And correct me if I’m wrong but I could still see traces of narrow nationalism among the judges…

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  • http://twitter.com/shahdsh shahd sh

    This show is all about the public buzz.
    I’d like to add,the little poet was only accepted because he was a Palestinian.

  • http://twitter.com/shahdsh shahd sh

    This show is all about the public buzz.
    I’d like to add,the little poet was only accepted because he was a Palestinian.

  • Nadakhatib

    Today’s show was an absolute miss everything was all over the place I laughed my brain off watching the whole thing falling down isn’t there one competent somebody working in this damn program??!!!

  • Nadakhatib

    Today’s show was an absolute miss everything was all over the place I laughed my brain off watching the whole thing falling down isn’t there one competent somebody working in this damn program??!!!