x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

New verse begins in the saga of Million's Poet

The fourth season of Million's poet will kick off tonight with 48 contestants fighting for the title and a Dh5m prize.

Haneen al Samarneh al Aajarma, a contestant from Jordan, recites poetry during last year's Million's Poet at Al Raha Theatre.
Haneen al Samarneh al Aajarma, a contestant from Jordan, recites poetry during last year's Million's Poet at Al Raha Theatre.

ABU DHABI // For more than 18 million television viewers, the wait is over. The fourth season of the reality show Million's Poet begins tonight, with 48 contestants competing for the top prize of Dh5 million (US$1.3m). The traditional Arabic poetry contest, which attracts viewers throughout the Middle East, will be broadcast live by Abu Dhabi TV each Wednesday at 10pm. Over 15 episodes, a panel of judges, together with viewers who vote via text, will decide each week who progresses to the next round.

The programme, which was launched in 2006, was an initiative by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. It is designed to help to keep traditional, or Nabati, poetry alive. "Nabati poetry has prestige in a large number of Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf region where it has been the common literature form since the fourth century AH [10th century AD]," said Mohammed al Mazrouei, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), which organises Million's Poet.

"Since then, it has been the best way to document the authentic Bedouins' life, with all its detail and beauty, expressing people's concerns, issues and feelings," al Mazrouei said. "Some researchers point to two important phases in Nabati poetry - the first goes back a thousand years, while the second phase started four years ago, when Million's Poet began." Sultan al Amimi, one of the show's judges and the director of the Poetry Academy at Adach, said: "Million's Poet has provided an opportunity for showing poets who were absent from the Arab cultural scene for various reasons and, for a long time, from the audio-visual and even paper media."

The poets in this year's contest hail from 12 countries including the UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. Their identities will be revealed on tonight's show. As well as the Dh5m first prize, Dh4m will go to the runner-up, while the third-placed contestant will pocket Dh3m. The poet in fourth place will win Dh2m and the fifth placed contestant will take home Dh1m. A related event, the Million's Poet Concerts, will take place at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation the day after each round of Million's Poet is broadcast.

The free public shows will feature the Arab world's most famous singers, musicians and folk groups. hdajani@thenational.ae