Ati Metwaly claps along
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 onto the stage and, within seconds of their entry, their enthusiasm infected the whole audience Òê" who stood up, cheered and clapped 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). Cairo performance was part of a world tour between 22 June and 12 August 2012.
From the press release posted on the American Armed Forces Entertainment web site, 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 Òê" including Korea, Japan, Guam, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Egypt, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and locations in the Middle East Òê" bringing entertainment to more than 30,000 troops and their families." According to the same source, the tour Òê" themed by the organisers as Pop/Meet and Greet Òê" is fully sponsored by the Armed Forces Entertainment.
But, regardless of the performers' apparent commitment to "military installations", six idols who on 6 July performed at the Cairo Opera House's open air theatre to the 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, the first edition of an Egyptian singing competition and "a women's empowerment program" 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 stagse. Two finalists of the same competition Òê" Malak El Husseiny and Maggie Fekry Òê" also joined the show.
For young Egyptian audiences, the evening included all those 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 Òê" Nathalie Alain, Malak El Husseiny and Magie Fekry Òê" have, over the past months, developed a considerable fan base.
The whole evening was based on performing covers to recorded music. Though the show included songs from the Western repertoire, it was obvious that the audience enjoyed the show which simplicity of resources has nevertheless been compensated by the stage experience and obvious confidence of all American performers. The bubbling spontaneity often challenged the singers' vocal control, yet, the success of the show was in its vigour. No wonder that, by the end of the show, rows of screaming attendees were 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 Jenifer 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's (feat. Kimbra) "Somebody That I Used to Know", which she sung with Colin Benward, brought back a captivating perspective to the song, stressing Gotye's original version which is much more powerful than the highly popularized 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 captivates the hearts of all the 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. His 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 until today's top charts, memorised by millions of young people and sung in karaoke. The success of the whole show relied on the dynamism and strong individualism of the young singers. Understandably, those values helped us turn a blind eye to sporadic flaws, Wilson's vocal slips or Benward and Madison losing breath while running across the audience Òê" an appealing act that nevertheless, and understandably, has to be at expense of the performance. Not only was the show captivating for the Egyptian audience; it was equally captivating for the Egyptian singers Òê" Nathalie Alain, Malak El Husseiny and Maggie Fekry Òê" and a good opportunity to get involved on stage with their peers in this musical fiesta.
Our home-grown talents are still developing, and still search for their unique self, yet they can be proud of the achievements they have made in a very short time. It is important to sing covers as part of development, and it is clear three Egyptian talents are attracted by the Western repertoire. Though Alain, El-Husseiny and Fekry have definitely kept their professional attitude, especially in slower numbers, more confidence and belief in their capabilities would have helped take their valuable performances to the higher level they deserve. With continued good coaching, learning, individual hard work, determination, exposure and self-belief, their unique personalities are bound to surface.