x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf to kick off his dream in Dubai

Dubai to be the first city to see Palestine's Mohammed Assaf perform after his triumphant Arab Idol win last night.

Mohammed Assaf: “This is for all the people in Palestine, from Gaza to Ramallah to the West Bank, who despite the indignities they suffered each day still go out and support me.” Mohammed Azakir / Reuters
Mohammed Assaf: “This is for all the people in Palestine, from Gaza to Ramallah to the West Bank, who despite the indignities they suffered each day still go out and support me.” Mohammed Azakir / Reuters

Dubai will be the first city to see Palestine's Mohammed Assaf perform after his triumphant Arab Idol win yesterday.

Finalists in the latest, hotly contested round of the singing competition will kick off a tour in the emirate, performing at the Dubai World Trade Centre on August 15.

The 23-year-old Assaf took the second season of the MBC talent show after seeing off strong challenges from Egypt’s Ahmad Gamal and Syrian performer Farah Youssef. It was a tense and emotional finale that wrapped up in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Assaf's victory earned plaudits from the Palestinian government, with the singer swiftly appointed on stage as a United Nations Good Will Ambassador - complete with diplomatic passport. He also won a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro, Assaf is now set to release a much-anticipated debut album courtesy of a record deal with Platinum Records.

The victory capped off a remarkable journey for the former wedding singer, who was raised in a Gaza refugee camp. It began last November, when Assaf drove to Beirut from Gaza to attend the program's auditions. Held up at the Egyptian border, he arrived too late to register.

That was when a fellow Palestinian reportedly surrendered his place in the queue, after deeming Assaf a better shot at progressing in the competition.

Assaf repaid his countryman’s faith, earning a spot and going on to inspire the Arab world with his smooth renditions of classical Arab songs; his silky voice and dashing looks recalling the Egypt’s legendary crooner Abdul Halim Hafiz.

Despite arriving to the Arab Idol final as a clear favorite, Assaf did have his work cut out for him. Beginning on Friday, the first half of the ultimate round had all three finalists performing a trio of songs each.

Gamal made a strong case as his voice glided serenely over Saber Rebai’s Ala Nar before a pitch perfect rendition of Emirati Hussein Jasimi’s bruising piano ballad Faqedtik.

Youssef's powerful vocals suited her traditional Arabic offerings, including the Syrian folk of Qoodod Halabiah and the poetic Qalu Tara by Abady Al Johar.

Back to Assaf, who was clearly in his comfort zone. His elastic voice effortlessly wrapped around Wadih Safi’s stirring Ya’aini Ya Sabr before turning to the the Gulf with Lana Lah by Saudi legend Mohammed Abdu.

The final’s first emotional wallop came towards the end of Friday's episode with all artists dedicating their final song to their respective nations. Gamal’s rendition of the Egyptian’s patriotic song La Anak Athema drew tears from the Egyptian judge, Hassan El Shafei.

Youssef finished strongly with the Syrian hymn Lakteb Asmak Libiladi before Assaf stole the show with a  thumping rendition of the Palestinian dabka Ala Kufieh Ala.

Last night’s action was dominated by the special guest Assi Helani. The Lebanese pop-star performed a half-dozen traditional folk songs with the finalists limiting their solo performances to a song each.

Upon hearing his name called as winner, Assaf immediately prostrated in prayer before dedicating his victory to Palestine.
“I honestly never expected to reach this stage,” he said. “This is for all the people in Palestine, from Gaza to Ramallah to the West Bank, who despite the indignities they suffered each day still go out and support me. I hope with this victory I have raised their heads higher even further.”

The August 15 Dubai World Trade Center show will see Assaf, Jamal and Youssef team up with Lebanese star and program judge Raghab Alama.

Visit www.ticketingco.com for tickets, which start at Dh150.

sasaeed@thenational.ae