By Bouabid El Khattab
By Bouabid El Khattab
Morocco World News
Marrakech, March 27, 2012
Move over dubbed Mexican soap operas…there’s a new television program that has captured the Arab world by storm. Arab Idol, the Arabic version of its American counterpart, has captivated audiences and offered them a temporary escape from the daily sadness of events in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere. Moroccans followed the show religiously as one of their compatriots, Dounia Batma, reached the final. With her mellifluous voice, beauty and unmatched command of the stage, Dounia drew a loyal following across the Arab world as well as millions more who watched her on satellite dishes and internet. At the end, Dounia lost in the final round to an equally talented Egyptian singer named Carmen.
From its very first show, Arab Idol saw stiff competition between contestants from all over the Arab world. Singers were at the mercy of a very demanding jury and audience, both in charge of deciding who went home and who moved on. After hundreds of beautiful songs and performers, there remained two finalists: Dounia and Carmen. In the final show, only the audience could cast votes to determine the winner of the competition. With two amazing final songs, the audience voted for Carmen. Dounia’s loss did not translate to fewer fans that Carmen. While Moroccans vehemently supported their compatriot, their emotional and verbal support was not enough. Dounia needed every Moroccan audience member to cast their vote in her favor. Instead, three harsh realities about Morocco could have cost her the win.
In Morocco, there is an absence of a culture of audience participation, especially voting, in television programs. In fact, some people believe that television serves the sole purpose of broadcasting programs and shows. When a particular program calls for active involvement, these people tend to ignore such requests. In doing so, they overlook the fact that an audience member affects the program being watched. An obvious example is the cavalier attitude about voting during Arab Idol’s last show. Moroccans who did not vote and then refused to accept the final decision only have themselves to blame. There is also a lack of loyalty to and passionate following of television programming. Some Moroccans watched Arab Idol whenever they came across it. They seemed uninterested in whether Dounia won or not and watched her perform just to pass time. When asked why they watched, they would often reply, “I watch the show because Dounia is Moroccan and I hope she wins.” When asked about the value of voting, they would say, “it does not matter whether I vote or not, one vote will not make a difference”.
Perhaps most detrimental to Dounia was the economic reality of Morocco. Many of Dounia’s true fans provided constant emotional support but were unable to vote for her because of their economic situation. With 12 million Moroccans living below the poverty line, i.e. on less than 10 MAD per day (less than $1.40 US dollars), the majority of Moroccans could not afford to pay 14 MAD ($2 US dollars) for an SMS message to vote. Many argue that whereas voting involved payment in Morocco, the process was free in Egypt and thus the reason for Carmen’s victory.
Moroccan disappointment at the result of Arab Idol is nothing new. Last year, in the hit television show “Arabs Got Talent”, the three finalists were a Moroccan, an Egyptian and a Saudi. Amr katamish, the Egyptian contestant, won the title after receiving the highest percentage of votes from the public during the last show of the competition. While voting in Egypt was free, it required payment in Morocco. As a result, Morocco’s Nur al-Din ibn Waqas, who stunned everyone with his marvelous painting of the musician Farid al-Atrash, done in an innovative and exquisite way, finished second.
Looking back at Dounia Batma, although voting, or lack thereof, might have deprived her from the title of the Arab Idol, she remains extremely talented and confident. If properly managed, Dounia will have a very bright future and will go on to earn more than the beautiful house in Dubai and the luxurious car she received for her outstanding performance. Dounia lost a competition to a very deserving Carmen. In the process, however, she won the admiration, respect and loyalty of millions across the world.
Edited by Hicham El Koustaf
Bouabid El Khattab is a high school English teacher in Marrakesh. He holds my BA and Master’s degree from Cadi Ayaad University in Marrakesh. He is a poet and short stories writer Interested in psychology.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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