This Saturday evening sees the hugely anticipated final of Arab Idol where this year’s finalists include young hopeful contestants from countries such as Egypt, Gaza and Syria. No other event seemingly has the ability to unify the Arab people in such volatile times, in this region fraught with fragility owing to the many conflicts and wars which have erupted during the past few years. Beyond the winds of the Arab Spring and oppression the sound of the youth has once again taken the Arab world to the horizons of peace.
The show has glued millions of Arabs to their TV screens all over the world, who have been utterly gripped by the unity these young contestants have brought to their region beyond religious, ethnic and national differences which have caused so much current instability. This sound of harmony and peace has echoed throughout the Arab world every Friday and Saturday where young contestants have been singing with messages beyond politics and extremism. This view was backed up by a 25-year-old Egyptian contestant recently said in a CNN interview that “you just vote for music and the one you love, the one you want to be a star and not for political reasons”.
Indeed, some of the young contestants have put their life and security at risk to cross borders in order to perform at the auditions. 25 year old Farah Yosef from Syria had to drive through the shootings as she left Syria with her car for the regional audition in Beirut. This is a road I have taken many times and it’s been a dangerous road to use during the war in the country. One of the judges, Nacy Ajram, was full of praise when she told the show’s Syrian contestants “That’s the voice we want to hear in the Arab world, not thesound of cannons”.
Another contestant Mohammed Assaf, a 22-year old Palestinian who is the first “Arab Idol” finalist from Gaza, was held up at the border for two days by the Israeli Border Police before being able to cross over to Lebanon for the audition. When the judges heard of his plight they waited for him to make it to the audition, sympathizing with the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza.
Itaf Said, a young Palestinian mother said to CNN that “He managed to unite Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank”. Assaf´s patriotic Palestinian songs and voice has touched every heart in the show.
His posters have plastered across the walls of West Bank refugee camps and checkpoints separating Ramallah from Jerusalem. This young Palestinian man has united his country as no politician ever have.
What personally amazed me about the show was a young Kurdish contestant from Erbil, a city in Kurdish Region of Iraq, who was given the opportunity to sing in Kurdish for the first time in the show’s history. Pirwas Hussain promoted her country not only by singing in Kurdish but also in Arabic, a language she does not speak rather memorizes. Despite criticism from many Kurds for singing in Arabic, one of the judges described her participation in the show to be a “message of love and peace.” Another judge described the Kurdish singing as an extension of the map of the music in the region.
This is not the first time Arab Idol has unified Arabs and Kurds in its show. The Kurdish regional Government and Al-Sharqiyah had sponsored a gathering of hundreds of Iraqi fans in Erbil with a giant outdoor television screen and free open lines to vote for their countrywomen in the 2007 final. A gathering like this wouldn´t have been possible to organise outside the Kurdish region. WhenShadha Hassoun was announced as the winner the crowd flared up in euphoria and we could hear the sound of celebration, gunfire, honking, singing and happiness all the way to the UN compound. The 25 year old singer’s voice silenced the sound of cannons that day.
The show has also been used as a platform to raise awareness and embrace environmental issues. Ban Ki-Moon, The Secretary General of United Nations, decided to announce during the live show that he’d appointed Lebanese superstar Ragheb Alama as the Climate Ambassador in the Arab World for the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) due to his commitment in environmental issues in the region.
This year’s Arab Idol has taken us on a journey of tears, laughter, happiness and many other moments I will miss until next year’s show. A powerful message of peace and love has been sent to a fragile region, ambassadors of peace have developed in the show and a glimpse of hope has arisen beyond the sound of cannons.
The Syrien contestant sings in English- Adel, Someone like you: