Arab Idol: More than Music


The world is fascinated with music. It’s one thing that gives everyone the capacity to express their stories and emotions. It is through this shared connection to music that singing competition shows have risen to such great popularity. We watch contestants on these shows that inspire and entertain us, and by voting, we are able to play a small role in their successes as musicians.

For many years, American Idol was the most popular show of its genre in the United States, becoming a pop culture phenomenon and launching the careers of many artists who are still relevant today. Although American Idol has since waned in popularity to other shows of its style in recent seasons, its Arabic equivalent, Arab Idol, remains an extremely popular source of musical entertainment in the Middle East. International Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat stated that last year’s Arab Idol finale, during which Palestinian Mohammed Assaf was named the winner, attracted approximately 100 million viewers.

The 2014 season is currently in full swing, and 26 finalists were recently selected to compete in the live broadcast round. Two of the singers moving on to the next round are 25-year-old Manal Moussa and 24-year-old Haitham Khalailah, both of whom are Palestinians hailing from within Israel’s borders, according to blog-based +972 Magazine.

Watch Manal Moussa’s and Haitham Khalailah’s auditions below:

But as a September 26th report by +972mag explains, there is more on the line for Moussa and Khalailah than international stardom. The tensions between Israel and the rest of the Middle East have made the logistics of the competition very complicated for the Palestinians, specifically when it comes to traveling to Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, where the live episodes of Arab Idol are filmed.

“For an Israeli and Lebanese passport holder to even meet is against the law – in both Israel and Lebanon. In order to go to Lebanon for the first part of the contest, the two received a special laissez-passer from the Palestinian Authority. When they returned to Israel, however, they were interrogated by the Shin Bet and their passports were confiscated. Despite their success on the program, their chances of staying in the contest looked bleak and uncertain.” -Quoted from +972mag. See full article here.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that music has the potential to unite people and bring joy to those who hear it, even if only on a very small scale. If viewers relate to Moussa and Khalailah, and want to see them advance, I think it would be extremely unfortunate if they were inhibited by political disputes. Arab Idol is not only an opportunity for these contestants to reach success and better their circumstances, but could also be a bridge between cultural divides

I’m curious to hear others’ perspectives on the magnitude of this situation, both for the singers and fans of the show from all sides of the issue. What sort of influence does Arab Idol have in the Middle East, and how does the entertainment industry factor into the conflicts in the region?

Sources: +972 Magazine and Asharq Al-Awsat.

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5 thoughts on “Arab Idol: More than Music

  1. I am inspired by the two young musicians because they will stop at nothing to live their dream and inspire others. They both went through extra steps just to audition for a contest that they could have been rejected by. It makes me want to go the extra mile and defy the odds. They both have such beautiful voices and I agree that singing is something anyone anywhere can relate to because music brings people together.

  2. I agree with you Emma, that it is extremely unfortunate for these two artists to be struggling to get to this point in this competition and having such uncertainty of their success in it just because of cultural divides. I hope they get to move forward and definitely think that their passion and others support for them could be one way to bridge the gap between these two cultures. You would think, however, that Arab Idol would choose a place for the live airing of this round to be somewhere that everyone could go to without harassment or difficulty.

  3. It is incredibly saddening to me that these two showcase potential for success on the show, but have to deal with the authorities just to get to the stage. As stated in the blog, music is a type of expression and in this case, it allows them to escape the reality of the war going on around them. The conflict shouldn’t interfere with their dreams.

  4. I thought this article was awesome! I really got a sense of pop culture and how it is relevant in the Middle Eastern world. I absolutely agree with that Music is one of the best way to unite people. I’d defiantly like to see more articles about the entertainment industry and how it is influenced by the conflict. Creative topic of interest I enjoyed it very much.

  5. Reblogged this on Mon site officiel / My official website and commented:
    Voici “Arab Idol” la version arabe de “La nouvelle star” ou “American Idol” par exemple. La musique n’a pas de frontières et c’est génial de pouvoir découvrir d’autres cultures même si on ne comprend pas tout.
    /
    Here is ‘Arab Idol’ the Arab version of ‘American Idol’ for example. Music hasn’t bounds and it’s great to discover other cultures even we don’t know all well.

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