Fiesta of Song: American Idol finalists perform in Cairo

Ati Metwaly, Thursday 12 Jul 2012

Part of the Summer Festival, on 6 July, six American Idol finalists joined three Egyptian singers from the Sing Egyptian Women competition and infused their audience with bubbling energy

photo by Sherif Sonbol

On Friday, 6 July, a group of singers from the United States took the Cairo Opera House open air theatre by storm. Six singers who were competing in the famed American Idol instilled unprecedented energy on the stage and within seconds of their entry their enthusiasm infected the whole audience who stood up, cheering and clapping to the beat.

From Season 10 of the competition (2011), the singers included those who made it to the top 24: Rachel Zevita, Ta-Tynisa Wilson and Kendra Chantelle Campbell in the top 12 Girls Week; Brett Loewenstern in the top 12 Boys Week; Adrien Madison, a contestant from the same season; and Colin Benward, a contestant from Season 9 (2010). The Cairo performance was part of a world tour between 22 June and 12 August.

From the press release posted on the American Armed Forces Entertainment website, we learn that “the Idols World Tour is the second world tour designed by Armed Forces Entertainment to reach more service members and their families with high caliber entertainment appealing to a broader audience base. The show will travel to 27 military installations throughout 12 countries — including Korea, Japan, Guam, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Egypt, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and locations in the Middle East — bringing entertainment to more than 30,000 troops and their families.”

According to the same source, the tour — themed by the organisers as Pop / Meet and Greet — is fully sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment.

Regardless of the performers’ apparent commitment to the US military, six idols who on 6 July performed at the Cairo Opera House’s open air theatre to a regular Cairene audience made the youthful attendees ecstatic. Tailored within the Cairo Opera House’s Summer Festival (covering the month of July), the singers were joined by Nathalie Alain, the winner of Sing Egyptian Women competition, the first edition of an Egyptian singing contest and “a women's empowerment programme” sponsored by the US Embassy in Cairo, ShareTheMic, and Nile Promotions, seeking to provide talented Egyptian women with the opportunity to represent their country on world stages. Two finalists from the same competition — Malak El-Husseiny and Maggie Fekry — also joined the show.

For young Egyptian audiences, the evening included all the elements that can attract and thrill. The internationally famed American Idol singing competition is followed by a large number of Egypt’s young generations, while the three singers from Egypt — Alain, El-Husseiny and Fekry — have, over the past months, developed a considerable fan base.

The whole evening was based on performing covers to recorded music. Though the show was based on songs from the Western repertoire, the audience enjoyed it, not least for the obvious stage experience and confidence of the American performers. The bubbling spontaneity often challenged the singers’ vocal control. Yet the success of the show by the end saw rows of screaming attendees glued to the stage, cheering and asking for more.

The Idols performed a number of songs together, topping them with several individual numbers. Rachel Zevita, known to be Jennifer Lopez’s favourite singer, seems to have it all: a unique timbre and great range, while her humble attitude is entwined with a remarkable confidence on stage. Zevita’s interpretation of Gotye (feat. Kimbra) “Somebody That I Used to Know,” which she sung with Colin Benward, was captivating, underlining Gotye’s original version which is much more powerful than the highly popularised remake sung by Walk Off the Earth. Benward also joined Kendra Chantelle Campbell in the song “Baby,” originally sung by 18-year-old Justine Bieber. This rather juvenile song which nowadays spurs the hearts of teenagers was filled with much better definition and the strong character of both performers: Campbell’s country-flavoured style and Benward’s skilful performer’s soul. Benward on guitar was joined by Adrien Madison in “It Will Rain” by Bruno Mars.

The 17-year-old Brett Loewenstern, with long and curly red hair, stood out on several occasions. He has a predilection for challenging female numbers, and his interpretation of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” and Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” proved to be unforgettable experiences. His charisma returned in his duet with Ta-Tynisa Wilson, which was an original mix between Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and one of the Whitney Houston’s very first hits, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”.

The evening included a large number of iconic Western pop songs from the 1980s to today’s top charts, memorised by millions of young people and sung in karaoke nights across the world. The success of the whole show relied on the dynamism and strong individualism of the young singers. Understandably, this dynamism helped us turn a blind eye to the sporadic flaws, Wilson’s vocal slips or Benward and Madison losing breath while running across the audience — an appealing act that nevertheless sapped the performance.

Not only was the show captivating for the Egyptian audience; it was equally captivating for the Egyptian singers, Alain, El-Husseiny and Fekry, being a good opportunity for them to experience and perform in the fiesta-like concert.

Our home-grown talents are still developing and still searching for their unique selves, yet they can be proud of the achievements they have logged in a very short time. Though Alain, El-Husseiny and Fekry definitely kept their professionalism intact, especially in slower numbers, more confidence and belief in their capabilities would have helped take their performances to the higher level they deserve to reach. With good coaching, learning, and individual hard work, determination, exposure and self-belief, their unique talents are bound to surface.

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