Dumooa Tahseen was crowned winner of the fourth season of The Voice: Ahla Sawt in a colourful televised ceremony held in Beirut last night.
The Iraqi singer proved victorious after a pair of confident and assured performances. Tahseen’s victory also marked a win for her mentor, the Emirati diva Ahlam, who made her debut in the coach's chair this season.
Ahlam will no doubt continue to play an influential role when Tahseen eventually hits the studio: as part of the season’s grand prize she will record and release a debut album through Dubai label Platinum Records.
“This is a lot to take in,” the 26-year-old singer said moments after receiving the silver winner’s trophy.
“I knew that if I worked hard and composed myself then I would have a good chance of winning, but this feeling is now unreal. I am unbelievably happy.”
A battle of nerves
Tahseen’s comments are indicative of the nature of talent show finales" broadcast live on MBC to a pan-Arab audience spanning over 70 million, Saturday’s final round was primarily about who could hold their nerves in check and rise to the occasion.
But that’s not to say the show doesn’t require some strategic nous. With all four contestants only having two performances each to impress the voting public, the choice of songs — which are decided with their respective coaches — are crucial.
And it was on that score, that some contestants faltered on Saturday evening.
It's all about song choice
Kuwaiti singer Yusuf Sultan may feel aggrieved this morning: the 34-year-old rode into the final on the back of sterling performances showcasing a powerful and supple voice channelling his musical hero, the Saudi singer Mohamed Abdo.
But that vitality was missing in his opening performance of Rejawi by Kuwaiti crooner Rashed Al Majid last night. Sitting on a stool with an acoustic guitar, Sultan's performance was worryingly docile with the whole affair akin to anonymous cafe music.
Sultan managed to remind audiences what he was all about with a towering second performance that saw him blend the folk song Law Alemat Al Dar with veteran Gulf crooner Abdullah Al Roweished's Raje Hesbatak.
Hela Melki’s risk didn’t pay off
With The Voice: Ahla Sawt commanding a multi-generational audience, singing in English is fraught with risks, and this is what ultimately scuppered Tunisian contestant Hela Melki's final chances on Sunday. A fun and charismatic soprano, she sporadically dropped an English song or two in during the competition. But Melki and her coach, the Lebanese star Elissa, should have realised that the final is more about playing to strengths than whims.
As a result, Melki's rendition of Albert Hammond's 1976 ballad, When I Need You (which went on to be covered famously by Rod Stewart and Celine Dion) sounded turgid at best. Once again, it was a case of too late for Melki as her final performance of Lel Sabr Hudood by Egyptian diva Um Kulthum was rather brilliant and a fine showcase of her expansive voice.
A two horse race
On the night, it was Tahseen and Moroccan contestant Issam Sarhan, who was mentored by Egyptian singer Hamaki, who played to their strengths.
But when it came to the latter, that dogged conservativeness could have been a hindrance when it came to the final count. Sarhan made a name for himself on the competition for his dazzling renditions of historic Arabic songs and poetry (sung and to music), however his insistence to rigidly remain in that zone throughout the competition could have ultimately cost him voters.
Meanwhile, it was Tahseen who followed a similar trajectory throughout the competition and managed to switch it up just enough in the finals to beguile viewers. Her opening number on Saturday was a breathtaking take of the Iraqi folk song Laila Wa Youm that saw a standing ovation from the crowd.
It was then her final song that offered us a view of her star potential. In what can only go down as masterstroke from coach Ahlam, Tahseen returned to the stageto sing the breezy lovelorn ballad Ala Bali by Egyptian star and former series coach Sherine.
Catchy Arab pop, coupled with Tahseen’s hefty and raspy voice, was a pungent mix and proved that, given the right songs, she can genuinely provide something different to the Arabic music scene.
This is a challenge Tahseen says she welcomes. “This whole competition was about giving it my best and seeing what I can do,” she says.
“I want to sing and reach as many people as I can, and the show gave me the confidence to do that. But this is still the beginning of the journey for me, so there is still plenty of things left to do.”
For more details go to www.mbc.net/thevoice