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By: Yaseen Rashed/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Arab Idol has recently risen to popularity in the Arab world as audiences are glued to the TV, making predictions on who’d win the competition. The show is a spin-off of the original American Idol; it features contestants from across the Arab world performing in a singing competition where winners get to take home new chevy corvette and a record deal with Platinum records of MBC for a debut album. Over the last four seasons, audiences were captivated by the performances that bring both the judges and audiences to tears. Besides all the memorable moments, today we’ll look at the winners of Arabi idol then and now and looking at how their lives have changed after winning the iconic competition.
Carmen Suleiman was the winner of the first season of Arab idol. She is originally from Egypt and her beautiful voice became easily recognizable as she entered the Arab Idol in 2012. She survived harsh rounds of elimination by the celebrity judges Ragheb Alama, Nancy Ajram, Ahlam, and Egyptian music producer, Hassan El Chefai. She prevailed against all these hardships as she won the show’s first award on March 24, 2012, ranking in the highest number of votes from the general audience. However, after finishing the competition Carmen received a record deal with Platinum Records, releasing her first single “Kalam Kalam”, a year after her winning the contest. Her first single was a huge hit, jumping to #1 on Egyptian pop. Later on, she released her debut album in 2014 which also entered the Arab music charts. Carmen was also awarded a Supreme Council of Culture in Egypt for having the best voice of anyone under 16. Among one of her later works, Carmen was also the voice of the Arabic dubbed Disney movie, Moana.
Mohammad Assaf was Arab Idols season 2 winner as he was adored by the masses who were captivated by his singing. Mohammed is from Gaza and just traveling to the competition in Egypt was a hardship. The journey took about two days due to complications at the border. However, when he took the stage, many thought he was a modern-day Abel Halim Hafiz, one of the most popular Arab artists of the 20th century. For his final round, Mohammed sang “Ali al-Kaffia” (raise your Kaffia/a symbolic special scarf of resistance); it’s in the anthem for Palestinian identity and independence. This performance resonated with everyone including Fatah and Hamas, the two main groups competing for power in Palestine. This anthem of unity made everyone in the Arab world fall in love with Mohammed. He won the competition in a sweeping landslide in 2013. Since then, Mohammed has released 2 critically acclaimed albums and multiple singles and collaborations. He has gone on and achieved “sold-out” tours across the Arab world and has become a household name. His popularity has been on the incline. His massive fans are excited to see just how far he’ll push the Arab Music scene.
Hazem Shareef was the winner of the third season of Arab Idol. He’s originally from Syria and he survived some very steep competition by his co-competitors in order to be crowned as the winner. His voice was described by the judges as a “fountain of gold” as he won the hearts of the millions across the Arab world. After winning the competition in 2014, Mohammed was awarded 250,000 Saudi riyals ($66,000) and a record deal with Platinum Records, an affiliate of the MBC group. He was also given 3 singles and a music video, all of which rose up to popularity and ended up becoming very widespread and successful. In addition to all of this, he was given a free trip to the Seychelles Islands courtesy of Emirates Airlines, the show’s sponsor. He is still young in his career and people are excited to see what’s in store for Mohammed.
The latest winner of the show during its 4th season on air is Yacoub Shaheen from Palestine. This season was also the first time ⅔ of the finalists were from a Palestinian descent. Yacoub was also unique in that he was a Christian Arab who was part of the Palestinians who stayed after Israeli occupation. Because of this, he was technically a Palestinian citizen of Israel which was new for the competition demographic. Perhaps the most notable part of his performance was him singing with the rest of the finalists “Cursed are the Wars” which moved judge Nancy Ajram to tears. Even though Yacoub is relatively new to the scene, there is no doubt that he will find great success in the growing industry.