Nancy Ajram is the new judge on season two of Arab Idol, which will return to TV screens next month. Arabic satellite channel MBC announced the inclusion of the Lebanese superstar in a high profile press conference at Dubai's Zabeel Saray hotel this afternoon. Present at the launch was Ajram as well as last year's debut season judges Emirati singer Ahlam, Egyptian music producer Hassan El Shafei and Lebanese crooner Ragheb Alama. “At first I was a little nervous on joining such a platform,” Ajram said. “But after watching how the show developed last year I really felt comfortable with it and I am so happy to join.
”With Ajram joining, the judging panel will now consist of an even number, a situation remedied with the contestant qualifying if they receive at least three yes votes from the judges. Such a development guarantees to unleash some excitable exchanges from the judging panel, some of which gave the press a taste of what's to come. It seems like the time off hasn’t cooled the friendly but feisty rivalry between Ahlam and Alama.
The duo wasted no time in stating they were looking forward to their on air squabbles.“The thing with Ahlam is she likes to argue,” Alama chuckled.“Even if it’s with her self.”
Ahlam said their on-screen rivalry is not merely for entertainment. Instead, it comes from a deep-seated concern for the contestants.“Yes we may not see eye to eye on a lot of things,” she said. “But at the end of the day, all we care about is the future of the contestants. As judges, that is what we are here for.”
El Shafei explained the success of the debut season allowed for a higher caliber of contestants to audition this year.“ We were surprised by how good some of them were,” he recalled. “It was because of that the decisions became more unanimous during those early stages because the quality was there.”
MBC spokesperson Mazen Hayek explained the programme will not undergo many changes from the previous season, with the exceptions of Ajram’s addition and the judging panels not traveling to every major Arab city for auditions. “Like the American format we sent a production team to some destinations for the auditions before we brought them to the judges,” he said.
Whatever the level of talent, Alama explained, he is looking forward to offering some help.“You know, it has always been a dream of mine to do something like this,” he said.“I have achieved a level of success and the opportunity to give back and help find the next level of stars is something I always wanted to do. I think it is something that a lot of us who reached a certain level must do.”Ajram is not the only new face to hit our screens this season.
Egyptian singer and actor Ahmad Fahmy has been tapped to co-host the weekly program with Lebanese model Annabella Hilal.
He is looking forward to using his musical background to help contestants.“I first started out as a musician and I also studied in a conservatoire,” he explains. “Also I feel that I wanted to show my fans a new side of me and judging from the feedback, they seem very supportive.” Ahlam also revealed a juicy piece of backstage information in that she admitted to signing on as judge on the debut season at literally the last minute. “The press conference and the journalists were taking their seat,” she recalled.“I signed the contract backstage just before I walked on to stage to be announced.”
* Arab Idol will appear on MBC 1 and MBC Masr in March. The date and broadcast time will be revealed soon. For more details go to www.mbc.net