Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Dubai labourers tell stories of struggle and survival through song and dance

Labourers enact their dreams in performances before hundreds in Colors Ka Sartaj show in Dubai

Colors TV's new show follows the popularity of the unrelated contest Champ Ka Camp, pictured here in 2015. Satish Kumar / The National
Colors TV's new show follows the popularity of the unrelated contest Champ Ka Camp, pictured here in 2015. Satish Kumar / The National

Hundreds of UAE labourers have taken part in a TV talent show organised to encourage them to tell their stories through music and dance.

The programme, Colors Ka Sartaj, is in its second year and has reached more than 65,000 workers across 60 accommodation camps in the UAE.

Preparing for his five-minute performance helped Kamal Rai, 26, to step out of the confines of his daily job as a cleaner at a telecoms company.

Mr Rai taught traditional dance in Nepal and composed a short drama for the show, which portrayed workers leaving home for higher paying, often lower-skilled, roles overseas.

“With my song and dance I showed both our struggle and our happiness,” he said. "My performance is all about what happens in our lives as labourers and what we sacrifice for our families.

"I was a dancer and choreographer in Nepal but here I am a cleaner. I have seen the same story of so many others who are educated but leave their skills behind to do different jobs here.”

Colors Ka Sartaj is organised by Colors TV, a Hindi-language entertainment channel.

The final took place on Friday night with Mohammed Shahid, of Bihar, India, winning first prize and a cheque of Dh10,000.

No matter how hard life is, this song reminds you that good things will happen and that we must have faith.

Rodel Francisco

Javed Jaffrey, Bollywood actor and comedian, is one of the show’s judges and said he was keen to be associated with an initiative to spot budding talent.

“The enthusiasm and passion demonstrated by the participants is a testimony to the immense pride they have for their talent and how happy they are to showcase it to their peers,” Jaffrey said.

“They don't get much exposure, hence these kind of events become even more important to the participants.”

Rodel Francisco, 34, a customer service agent at a facilities management company, said he had practised singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow because it reflected his aspirations.

The song from The Wizard of Oz is one of the Filipino’s favourites.

Performers take to the stage during the Dubai talent show
Performers take to the stage during the Dubai talent show

“No matter how hard life is, this song reminds you that good things will happen and that we must have faith,” said Mr Francisco, who has lived in Dubai for a decade.

“In my family, we have faced trouble and problems but we help each other to survive. I hope with these songs we can inspire people to enjoy themselves and help each other even while they are working hard.”

Talent contests have become hugely popular in the UAE, giving workers the opportunity to show their abilities and use their cash prizes to better the lives of their families.

Low wages forced Malkit Singh to set aside his job as a junior accountant in a rice mill in India’s northern Haryana state four years ago.

Mr Singh, 30, said the money he now earns as a security guard in Dubai helped him to take care of his sisters at home.

He rehearsed a Bollywood song from a well-known film, Chak de! India. The song is about how a group of misfits in a women’s hockey team become winners in a world championship.

“We all want a better life. People will understand this song because all of us want to change our life and go to a good and different level,” Mr Singh said.

Updated: July 17, 2019 04:10 PM

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