MidEast: 'Arab Idol' Mohammed Assaf unites his people

Young Palestinian talent show star draws fans

28 May, 13:23

    Mohammed Assaf (dalla pagina Facebook) Mohammed Assaf (dalla pagina Facebook)

    (ANSAmed) - Ramallah, 28 May - By Michele Monni - A young and talented Palestinian singer appears to have succeeded where politics has failed in bringing his people together.

    Mohammed Assaf, 22, who comes from a refugee camp in Gaza, is the name on everyone's lips on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and he is poised to win the most famous talent show in the Middle East, 'Arab Idol'.

    The programme, aired in Beirut and modelled on the format of "X Factor" and other popular talent shows, is one of the most watched TV shows in the Arab world attracting millions of spectators each week.

    This year's series attracted singers from Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, West Bank, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt and their success or failure depended on an SMS vote from the viewers.

    There are four judges - like the common western format - and all are legends of Arab pop music: Ragheb Alama (the Lebanese Elvis Presley, as well as the two female singers Nancy Ajram and Ahlam and the Egyptian record producer Hassan El Shafei.

    But the undisputed star of the show is the young Assaf, who has won millions of teenagers' hearts and been nicknamed the Justin Bieber of the Middle East.

    Sources say the young singer struggled before making it through the Rafah border crossing to go to Cairo to audition for the TV talent show.

    He found the doors closed and climbed over the gates to join the crowd of young hopefuls but all the tickets seemed to have been taken.

    But like a classic Hollywood tale, the desperate and broken-hearted Mohammed began singing in the piazza in front of the other participants and a young Egyptian rival was so struck by his voice he gave him his ticket to enter.

    In the Palestinian Territories and elswhere Mohammed Assaf is an icon. In Ramallah last Friday thousands of people gathered in the street to watch the show and vote for their idol.

    The Palestinian telephone companies Jawwal and Watanya are offering discounts on sms messages for those voting for Mohammed and Palestinian president Abu Mazen has telephoned to congratulate him.

    In Gaza, where Hamas is reluctant to demonstrate against the laws of the Koran, Mohammed has also stolen their hearts and everyone is lining up to watch him on TV.(ANSAmed).

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