x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Labour camp 'Idol' returns to India with two singing titles

A man from India who won last year's Camp Ka Champ singing competition also won this year's contest for the best singer in the Emirates' labour camps.

Jatin Khatri (left) bows out of Camp Ka Champ while he is ahead after winning back-to-back titles, this time accompanied by Chandrama Shah. Mr Khatri is soon to return to India. Siddharth Siva for The National
Jatin Khatri (left) bows out of Camp Ka Champ while he is ahead after winning back-to-back titles, this time accompanied by Chandrama Shah. Mr Khatri is soon to return to India. Siddharth Siva for The National

Cheered on by construction workers from all over the Emirates, Jatin Khatri reclaimed the title of Dubai Idol with a slow Bollywood number.

The electrician from Gujrat, India, who was accompanied by Chandrama Shah, lit up the glittering stage at Al Nasr Leisureland for the fifth Western Union Camp Ka Champ (Champ of the Camp) on Friday.

Mr Khatri also won last year's contest to find the best singer among security guards, drivers, operators, welders and other labourers.

After months of practice, the two men had won the hearts of the blue-collared community that gathered to watch the contest, the most anticipated event for these men each year.

"I cannot explain my happiness in words," said Mr Khatri, whose rendition of an old Hindi favourite had the crowd whistling and clapping.

"Last year I competed for the first time and that was when I found out that even I am talented."

Mr Khatri, who works for the contractor ETA Ascon, will be going home for good and wanted to finish "with a bang". He is now called the Kishor Kumar of Dubai, after the legendary Indian singer.

"Even last year, when I won the trophy I became a superstar in my village," he said. "Everyone was so proud of me."

More than 2,500 labourers from 60 camps in Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Khor Fakkan have been vying for the title since auditions began in July.

Rupa Vinod, the managing director of the event's organiser Right Track Advertising, said this was an escape from the men's daily stress.

"It's free for them and because of the recognition they get, they feel like they too are somebody and are appreciated," Ms Vinod said.

"When they win, they tell their parents and become popular among their peers and relatives back home."

Contestants from countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also competed in open microphone rounds and games where they had to identify songs and films.

"The idea is to make it a relaxing and fun day," Ms Vinod said.

When Harjinder Singh, a signalman for the building company L&T, took the mic for his first Punjabi peppy song, the audience were on their feet, dancing and singing with him.

Mr Singh had been preparing for two weeks. "I am disappointed we did not win because I practised very hard," he said. "We lost because my partner got a little nervous on stage and we couldn't answer quickly."

Kaiser Akbar, another participant, said he stayed up late at night to learn the lyrics.

"After coming from my duty at 10.30pm, learning the songs was my next duty," Mr Akbar said, laughing. "I would listen to the songs on the radio, on TV and even write the words on paper and paste it in the car."

Mr Singh, who participated for the first time this year, said the competition was very important to him.

"This is the only outlet we have," he said. "We get to go out, be with friends, see friends from other camps and that helps us cope with being far away from our own families. And we become famous, too."

Ms Vinod said that when the competition began in 2007, workers were very reluctant to sing in auditions.

"They were so scared and would say, 'We cannot sing,' and hide in the toilets when we would visit them," she said.

This year, Mr Khatri's team and members of the Dulsco and Petron teams won gift vouchers, electronics, home appliances - and bragging rights.

 

aahmed@thenational.ae