x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Workers enjoy their moment of fame in 'Dubai Idol' contest

Yesterday was only an audition for the labour camp singing contest, but that was enough to make one contestant a minor celebrity back home.

Contestants perform during auditions for workers to be part of Camp Ka Champ at a labour accommodation in Mussafah yesterday.
Contestants perform during auditions for workers to be part of Camp Ka Champ at a labour accommodation in Mussafah yesterday.

MUSSAFAH // Yesterday was only an audition for the labour camp singing contest, but that was enough to make Kanchan Mia a minor celebrity back home. The 25-year-old Bangladeshi said news of his participation in Camp Ka Champ - Champ of the Camp - had been a hot topic in his village of about 1,000 people in the sub-district of Raipura.

"It is already spreading like wildfire," said Mr Mia, a painter. "I told my wife I am singing today in the contest. She has already told everybody." Mr Mia was among about 40 men working with the ETA-Ascon Star Group who auditioned at the labour camp in Mussafah yesterday in front of a three-judge panel. Now in its fourth year, this is the first time workers from Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are being included in the contest nicknamed Dubai Idol.

If selected for the next round, Mr Mia will be paired up with another singer and will compete to represent his company in the semi-finals and finals, which will be held on October 8 in Dubai. Champ of the Camp is based on the Indian musical game antakshari, which is often played at weddings and celebrations. As well as singing, teams compete to start a song with the last letter of the lyrics from the previous song. They also have to identify Bollywood actors and sing songs from their films, as well as recognise dance clips from movies and then sing the respective songs.

"It's like a Bollywood singing quiz," said Shobana Chandramohan, one of the three judges and a former disc jockey with Radio Spice, a station in Dubai, and lead singer with the Malhaar Orchestra. "We need to find out if they are equipped enough to do that. We just want them to sing a couple of lines to see if they can sing in tune, and then test their knowledge base." Yesterday's open auditions provided a chance for the singers to show off their talent and knowledge of film and music, while having a bit of fun. A queue formed down the hallway outside a small room on an upper floor of the accommodation.

Mr Mia leapt to his feet during a performance by his friend, Asmatullis Kamel Shaik, who was belting out a popular tune from Bengal. Both men have wives and young children they are supporting back home and have been working in Abu Dhabi for four months. They said the contest was a welcome diversion from their everyday jobs. "Now when I call my wife we will have something else to talk about other than work," said Mr Shaik, a 25-year-old carpenter.

Dressed in a black shirt and jeans, Mr Shaik said he had been eagerly awaiting his audition since notice of the contest went up last month. But yesterday he had to rush over to the microphone after finishing work for the day and was hesitant to smile because he had not had time to brush his teeth. Rupa Vinod, the managing director of Right Track Advertising, the company organising the competition, said the contest was about giving the workers some entertainment rather than judging them by their appearance. The company is considering launching other competitions, perhaps involving dancing or cooking.

"We don't care about looks at all, we just want them to participate," Ms Vinod said. In 2007, there were just three companies involved. This year, nine joined in, with auditions being held at 35 camps. The winning duo will receive cash vouchers of Dh1,500. The first runners-up get Dh1,000 and the second runners-up get Dh750. Last year, prizes such as television sets were included. @Email:mchung@thenational.ae