x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Opportunity knocks for talented singers at Dubai labour camps

More than 3,000 labourers competed in the quarter-final stage of Camp Ka Champ, also known as Dubai Idol.

Participants sings during the Anthakshari round for the "Camp Ka Champ" at a labour camp in Dubai. (Satish Kumar / The National)
Participants sings during the Anthakshari round for the "Camp Ka Champ" at a labour camp in Dubai. (Satish Kumar / The National)

DUBAI // It was no ordinary Friday night at the Sonapur labour camps this week. The drone of diesel-powered labour buses moving through the streets was hardly noticeable over the sound of music echoing through the camp.

More than 2,500 people gathered to cheer on their co-workers and friends at the quarter-final stage of the Camp Ka Champ singing competition. The seventh season of the competition- nicknamed Dubai Idol - saw 3,000 amateur vocalists try their luck singing top Bollywood tunes.

The concept and organisation of the competition comes from Right Track Advertising.

"No one goes away empty-handed at this competition," said Rupa Vinod, managing director of Right Track Advertising. More than Dh25,000 in prizes will be handed out to the participants. "At every stage they get something, this is more about participation."

Of the 3,000 who started the competition, only 244 moved on to this round.

"From those only 32 will make it to the semifinal round and six will go on to the final," Ms Vinod said.

Two winners will get Dh7,500 in vouchers and a plasma television. Finalists get Dh1,500 and return air tickets, while semifinalists get Dh1,000.

"It's a very tough competition this year," Ms Vinod said. "There is some real talent in the Transguard camps. We have different nationalities all singing Bollywood songs."

The event started seven years ago with only three camps. Now, 16 companies encompassing 85 camps as far as Khor Fakkan and Ras Al Khaimah compete.

"Participation is free and they get a chance to sing with professional singers on stage. This year we are also acknowledging the musicians," Ms Vinod said.

The competition is designed not just to entertain but to build confidence as well.

"With that confidence we've seen some people use it to get promotions. We had a participant from Dulsco who was a cleaner - he is now a security guard."

The team from IFFCO were celebrating their dominating performance on Friday night.

Sheikh Feroz, Sayed Mubin and Imran Caveri were very happy.

"We love competing against other companies, it gives us more motivation and makes it exciting," Mr Mubin said.

Mr Feroz, 25, was celebrating a proud moment. "My father joined the competition for the first time this year. He was chosen as best singer here tonight," he said.

Though the team did well, there was one mistake that some members just could not overlook.

"Feroz cost us 100 points tonight," said Mr Caveri. "He answered a question and started singing without hitting the buzzer. That is something we need to prevent if we move on to the next round."

Only two of the six team members would be chosen to move on to the semi-final round."We told our families back home that we will be competing. They are very happy and are cheering us on to win the competition," Mr Feroz said.

Girish Kumar hopes that it will be four time lucky for him.

"This is my fourth year in the competition, I've never made it past the semi-final round, I'm hoping this year will be different."

Mr Kumar, 42, said the music round has always been his stumbling point. "It is not easy. I've been trying very hard this year, but you don't really have much time to practise. I try to listen to as many songs as I can."

The Indian construction worker said the competition has been a great experience.

"I feel like singing all the time now, even when I'm working," Mr Kumar said. "It was a great opportunity to get up on stage and have so many people hear my voice, otherwise I'd only be singing to myself in the bathroom."

"Some of these competitors are trying very hard," Ms Vinod said. "We are now thinking of maybe getting a professional singing coach for some of them for next year."

She said that this year they hope to select the best 12 competitors to record an album. "We will take them to a professional studio where they will get a chance to know how a professional vocalist performs. Copies of the album will be distributed at the camps for free."

"It was a great show," said Mohammed Shaheen, 28, an electrician from Bangladesh who is an avid fan of the Camp Ka Champ event. "I look forward to these competitions every year. I've never missed one yet. It is a lot of fun, the crowd dances to the songs and you are always surprised by the amount of talent we have here."