For the past 12 years, Munshid Al Sharjah has been scouting the globe for the next nasheed star from the Muslim world. And this week, as finalists take the stage for their first performance in front of a live audience, tensions are running high in the high-stakes competition.
Nasheed is an Islamic-inspired music genre that mainly consists of a cappella Arabic vocals accompanied by percussion. In the annual Sharjah TV event, contestants come from around the world, with auditions held as far as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad and Malaysia.
A total of 12 finalists were whittled down from 1,240 contestants from around the world over the past few weeks, and will perform live for the judges at the quarter finals on Thursday evening at Sharjah's Al Majaz Amphitheatre. This will be followed by the semi-finals on Saturday and the finals on March 31. The show will be broadcast live on Sharjah TV.
“Munshid Al Sharjah and its successive seasons have become a trademark of Sharjah TV," says Salem Ali Al Ghaithi, the director of Sharjah TV.
"We view it as an annual unorthodox event, especially that the talents who have featured [in] Season 1 have made their presence felt in this field, and help take the art of nasheed to a wider audience in the Arab world."
Najm Al Dine Hashem, the executive producer of Munshid Al Sharjah, adds: "What drew us about the talents this year is the diversity and the presence of a new generation of young talents with beautiful voices."
Who are the finalists of Munshid Al Sharjah 2022?
The 12 vocalists this year come from across the Arab world. They are:
- Jamal Al Kaabi from the UAE
- Rahif Al Hajj from Lebanon
- Mustafa Al Shafei from Egypt
- Mohammed bin Murad Farshio from Tunisia
- Issa Al Hussein from Saudi Arabia
- Khalid Al Moued from Palestine
- Zakaria Al Zirek from Morocco
- Ahmed Hijazi from Sudan
- Aseel Jaber from Algeria
- Alawi Al Shatiri from Yemen
- Ahmed Samreen from Jordan
- Abdullah Al Qasimi from Bahrain
Who are the judges for Munshid Al Sharjah?
Three judges will pick this year's winners. The panel includes Tunisian singer Lotfi Bouchnak, one of the most prominent Arab artists and musicians known for his religious chants, as well as Sufi singer Sheikh Mahmoud El Tohamy, the man behind Madrassat Al Nashad, translating to chanting school, which has been at the forefront of building a new generation of singers who perform nasheeds.
They will be joined by Ahmed Bukhatir, who hails from Sharjah, and is considered the UAE's chanting ambassador. Bukhatir began his chanting career in 1989 and released his first album at the age of 20, titled Entasaf Al Layl, in 2000.
Three vocal coaches will guide the aspiring nasheed stars on their journey. They include acclaimed Iraqi musician and composer Waseem Faris, Season 4 finalist Mustafa Hamdo from Syria, and Egyptian music producer and composer Sherif Mohsen.
“Vocalists ought to discover their vocal potential which will help them choose nasheeds that best suit their voice,” Faris tells The National.
“The vocalist should maintain daily vocal exercises, including the Solfege singing exercise — which is singing the names of the notes — and the seven essential Makams (a set of pitches and melodic elements popular in Middle Eastern music).”
Faris, who has coached Munshid Al Sharjah contestants in almost all seasons, says the biggest challenges contestants constantly face are "selecting the right nasheed, maintaining good health and having enough rest and sleep".
"Contestants must relax and focus during the first 10 seconds on how to pick up the chant while maintaining harmony with the backing vocalists. The element of fear will dissipate once they detach themselves from the rest of the world," he advises. "They should not worry about the evaluation of the judging panel. Being relaxed is essential for a better performance.”
Guest performers at the show
A number of star performers will join the contestants on stage during the three live shows. For the quarter finals on Thursday, Syrian singer and songwriter Maan Barghouth will perform his famous hit Hala Bil Khamis (Welcome Thursday) while last year's Munshid Al Sharjah finalist, Egyptian singer Mohammed Tareq, will entertain audiences with his most popular Islamic tracks.
Kuwaiti singer and music producer Humood Al Khudher will be the guest performer at the semi-finals on Saturday, while the finals on March 31 will feature a performance by Lebanese-Swedish singer, songwriter and music producer Maher Zain. One of the biggest names in nasheed music, Zain is best-known for his song Ya Nabi Salam Alayka (O Prophet, Peace be Upon You) from his album Thank You Allah.
Sharjah Munshid Festival
Alongside Munshid Al Sharjah, organiser Sharjah Radio and Television Authority has put together a family-oriented Sharjah Munshid Festival outside Al Majaz Amphitheatre. Offering a wide range of fun activities and competitions, the festival will include children’s entertainment, games, food stalls, daily shows, an outdoor cinema and a screening of past seasons of Munshid Al Sharjah.
The Sharjah Munshid Festival runs from March 24 to 31, 5pm-10pm, at Al Majaz Amphitheatre. Entry to the festival as well as the Munshid Al Sharjah show are free for all three days. Visitors will however be required to present a green pass on Al Hosn app to enter. More information is available at munshidsharjah.ae