The Yas Viceroy has had to postpone Thursday night's Assi Helani concert, the subject of an interview on page al10 in today's Arts&Life section. The concert had been scheduled at the hotel's Palm Garden, but due to "unforeseen circumstances", must be rescheduled to an unspecified future date. All tickets can be refunded from the hotel. For information, call the Yas Viceroy on 02 656 0600
Below is the interview printed in today's Arts&Life section from before the announcement of the cancellation.
Live performances in Yas Island are not just limited to the du Arena and du Forum. The Yas Viceroy Hotel has stepped up to launch what it hopes will become a series of gala concerts at the hotel's lavish Palm Garden.
Kicking off the proceedings on Thursday is the Lebanese pop star and victorious winning coach of The Voice: Assi Helani.
A regular performer in the UAE, the 42-year-old says his fans know what to expect. "It will be a typical Assi Helani concert," he explains. "Doing this for 25 years, I have been blessed to cover a whole range of styles from Lebanese to Egyptian, folklore to Khaleeji. I have a personality that loves to have fun and entertain. This is what I hope to share with the Abu Dhabi audience."
More than the album covers and glossy video clips for such hits as Wani Mareq Mareet and Ahla Al Oyoun, Helani's winning turn as the coach in MBC's Arabic version of The Voice exposed a lighter, playful and sometimes flirtatious side to his personality. In an Arabic music industry where artists guard their image jealously, Helani's lively banter and sharp wit won over the audience.
Helani admits that The Voice experiment worked, as it won him a new legion of fans. "You don't get too many chances to show your real personality as an artist," he says. "People know me as a recording artist and performer, but this was totally different. To spend time with the contestants and with the television viewers regularly for a few months is a rare opportunity." Benefiting most was Mourad Barouki, the singer who was coached by Helani and who was crowned The Voice's inaugural winner.
However, it was not all fun and games. Helani put the Moroccan through his paces, polishing the rough edges and dishing out some hard truths. Barouki's forthcoming debut single, with the high-profile producer RedOne, will also have the Helani touch, with the latter penning the melodies.
The hands-on approach to mentoring is the only way Helani knows how to work. "It is about the drive to succeed and consistently innovate," he says. "I love to joke around but there is a time and place for that and when it comes to your career, it needs your full dedication. Mourad is a great talent and I am glad he is getting the success he deserves."
Raised in Lebanon's Ba'albek, Helani was born in Jdaydeh to a family of 13 brothers and sisters. The crowded household carved a determined work ethic in Helani.
"Our family was big and very tight," he says. "The family may not have supported me financially because of their means, but their constant support and guidance has been so important."
Helani is looking forward to dispensing more advice on the second season of The Voice later in the year. After all, he knows what it's like to be a contestant; he launched his career after winning the Art Studio talent programme in 1985 as a 17-year-old.
While the music industry has evolved since then, Helani says the TV talent show format remains an effective platform to unleash new talent. "It is also for many people the only avenue to show what they can do," he says. "But at the end of the day, the programme is an opportunity. As a contestant, you have to take it seriously and prepare for it."
Helani's focus now is his latest album - his 19th - which is due out in June. He says while it contains modern-day production tricks, it remains a very Middle Eastern-sounding pop record. "It will be my typical output but the production is much better," he says. "Over the years, I have experimented with a lot of styles but I am glad that throughout my career, I maintained that Oriental feel. It is still music from this region."
Assi Helani performs on Thursday at the Yas Viceroy's Palm Garden, with a buffet dinner served by the in-house restaurant Atayeb. Guests should arrive by 8.30pm. Tickets begin from Dh800 and are available from www.ticketingco.com. For information, call the Yas Viceroy on 02 656 0600