A 12-year-old girl from Lebanon with no musical training has won the first season of MBC’s inaugural Arab talent competition, The Voice Kids Ahla Sawt.
Lynn Al Hayek was one of six youngsters who made it to the final round of the show and sang live from Beirut on Saturday night in front of a television audience of millions.
The finale was the culmination of 10 weeks of tears and laughter as dozens of children between the ages of 7 and 15 competed for the top prize.
Al Hayek will receive a scholarship worth 250,000 Saudi riyals (Dh245,000) and the opportunity to record a single that will be produced by Platinum Records. The rest of the finalists received 10,000 riyals (Dh9,800) each, and every child who auditioned for the show – even those who were not chosen – went home with 5,000 riyals (Dh4,900).
Al Hayek, whose mature vocals and enviable range defy her years, lives near the northern city of Tripoli and dreams of studying chemistry. She said that when she is not riding her bike and climbing trees, she is singing.
“I haven’t studied music, but the sound of the sea and the streets are music to me,” she says. “I like to go to my favourite spots near our home and just sing.
“I just can’t believe it at all, that I’m part of this. I used to dream I’d one day be on The Voice when I grew up, so I just had to audition when I heard about The Voice Kids. I never dreamed I would come this far.”
The learning curve
Al Hayek was coached by Iraqi superstar Kazem “The Caesar” Al Saher, who was also mentor to 11-year-old Mirna Hanna from Iraq.
“I learnt so much from Mr Kazem,” Al Hayek said before her performance in the final. “I was so shy – he taught me how to be confident and show what I’ve got. I’m a new person now when I sing.”
She added that Al Saher taught her “how to be strong and daring, and to always smile. Because of him, I discovered that my voice is even better than I thought.”
All six finalists were unanimous when asked what they loved most about the show: the chance to meet each other and form lasting friendships, along with the opportunity to learn from their coaches.
Ghady Bechara from Lebanon, who chose to sing in English throughout the competition, and Zain Obeid from Syria, were coached by Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram.
“She’s like a mother and a sister to us,” says Obeid. “We were so lucky to have her.”
Bechara liked the fact that Ajram wasn’t too strict and didn’t belittle the contestants or “treat us like kids”.
Obeid says that whenever he felt nervous on stage, “I just looked at my mum or at Nancy and they took all the fear and made me more confident”.
The third celebrity judge, Egyptian singer and actor Tamer Hosny, coached Juwayriyah Hamdi, from Egypt, and Amin Amoury, from Syria.
“I love Mr Tamer so much. I love his voice, and he is so modest and not arrogant, he’s just like on TV,” says Hamdi. “I can’t believe this happened for us.”
Amoury describes Hosni as his “best friend”. The young boy proclaimed: “I want to be just like Mr Tamer – a success like him and kind like him – when I grow up.”
The judges’ take
The judges, were just as enamoured with the young contestants, and Hosni repeatedly said on Saturday night: “I’m going to miss them. We are going to miss them so much.”
“There’s a lot to learn from these incredible children,” says Al Saher, who described taking part in The Voice Kids as one of the “hardest and most emotional experiences” he has ever had.
“They are so resilient and brave and proud, so talented and appreciative of the great classical songs of the Arab world,” he says. “I expected them to be singing pop music, and yet they surprised all of us with their mature choices.”
The winning performance
Al Hayek performed two technically difficult songs in the final: Saudi Arabian performer Mohammed Abdo’s Aba’ad Kuntum and the late Tunisian singer Thikra’s Kol Eli Lamouny.
Al Saher says of Al Hayek: “She has one of the most beautiful voices I encountered in my life. When she sings on stage, I can see she is trying to prove her worth and her place on that stage. She has incredible feeling.”
Al Hayek and the rest of the contestants were reminded not to neglect their studies by the judges.
“If people take anything from this show,” says Ajram, “it’s that excelling in your studies is what will help you become a success later on, and parents need to pay attention to their children’s talents and nurture them and encourage them, whatever that talent may be.”
For Hosni, however, the 10 weeks that The Voice Kids was on the air had an even bigger underlying message.
“For years now, we switch on the TV and watch bloodshed, and war, and children who have lost their homes, and horrors from this region,” he says. “This generation of kids has seen this for long enough.
“Watching something like this show, instead, that shows them success and hope and dreams coming true, well, it’s about time. There’s a lot of hope in this show – it will inspire the children of this region, and they are our future.”
• Reruns of MBC’s The Voice Kids Ahla Sawt, can be watched on www.shahid.net
Source: art & life