How boy band The 5 plan to make their mark in the Arab world
Adil Echbiy, the oldest member of the Arab band The 5, had no qualms about cancelling his UAE residency visa, packing up his life in Dubai and heading to Beirut for the unforeseeable future. He moved to Dubai from his native Morocco in 2013 and was working at the fashion store Hollister, a far cry from his degree in computer science. But coming to the UAE was about seeking a fortune, regardless of the job, says the 29-year-old.
“I’ve always loved singing, but I’ve never sung professionally in my life. When I decided to audition for The X Factor, it was my first time on stage,” he says.
When Echbiy made it through the audition rounds and realised that he had officially become part of the competition, he made the tough decision to leave the UAE.
“I really loved living in Dubai, and who knows if I’ll be back one day, but I chose to leave because of The X Factor programme. I believed in this opportunity and what we would be doing as a group and I wanted to invest in it,” he says.
So far, his choice has paid off. Like Justin Bieber’s Beliebers, Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters and the ever growing One Directioners, Echbiy and his four friends, who make up The 5, have their followers and they call themselves Fivers.
Achbiy and his bandmates – Said Karmouz and rapper BMD from Algeria, Ahmed Hassan from Egypt and Kazem Chamas from Lebanon – regularly respond to the love they receive from Fivers on social media. However, just how popular they have become, especially among the young, female population, has not yet sunk in.
“We don’t really feel that we’re that big, not as much as we’re being told, because we don’t go out much or run into anyone outside of the show,” says Karmouz, 19. “We’re just working all the time, we haven’t seen people’s reactions out in public, we only see it on social media. But it’s still very flattering; we have all been waiting for this moment, we all want the fame.”
They have already been able to identify – as a group – exactly what they want, besides fame, and that includes continuing to sing Arab pop songs with some rap. They are also eager to begin writing their own music and lyrics. They are not adamant that each sings a solo in every song; they would much rather become known for complex, well-executed harmonies.
As Echbiy puts it, the goal is to “prove our place as talented musicians in the Arab world”.
“We are a young group, in terms of age and experience. But ... we want to create different, energetic music; music that gives energy to youth – that inspires in them the idea of luck in life. That’s our message. We want to work with fun producers. In fact, we have to find producers who will work with groups, because that’s so rare in the Arab world – everyone here is a solo artist,” says Echbiy.
The band’s biggest concern as a group is what happens after The X Factor wraps up on June 13, especially if they don’t end up winning.
“We need help and support, we need someone to take us under their wing and choose to produce for us so we can stay together and continue being The 5,” says Karmouz.
That’s a high order for the Arab world, where the spotlight shines on solo artists, not bands. The 5 know this and have no answer for their fans’ most persistent question: where will they all live once The X Factor ends?
“We still don’t know what will happen or where we’ll all end up, especially since we’re all from different countries,” says Karmouz. “We just want to stay together.”
• The X Factor semi-final will be broadcast live on Saturday, June 6, at 10pm on MBC4
Updated: June 3, 2015 04:00 AM