Every Friday night, on the live broadcasts of Arab Idol, the contestant Abdel Karim Hamdan receives a standing ovation from judges and audience members alike. But when he sang about his homeland Syria, and particularly about the plight of his battered hometown of Aleppo in a heartbreaking rendition of a mawwal, there wasn't a dry eye in the -audience.
"Aleppo, a flood of suffering, how much blood is shed in my country," the 25-year-old sang in the Beirut studio where the hugely popular show, modelled on the British hit Pop Idol, is recorded.
“With a broken heart I cry for my land and the children who have become strangers in their own country,” he sang. The song has already been viewed more than four million times on YouTube.
The lyrics to the poem, which he wrote, deeply affected Arab Idol's judges.
"That's the voice we want to hear in the Arab world, not the sound of cannons," said the Idol judge and Lebanese songstress Nancy Ajram.
The Lebanese singer Ragheb Alama, a veteran Idol judge, said that Hamdan's singing, dripping with raw emotion, brought something new for both the audience and the judges.
“We stood by him and automatically felt like we were part of this issue. He made us feel that way and the public reaction was very honest, just like the honest way that Abdel Karim sang about the bloodshed in Aleppo and in Syria,” said Alama.
Hamdan’s fellow Syrian competitor Farah broke down in tears as he wrapped up his performance. “I wanted to sing about a cause that affects the whole world,” said Hamdan, who studied opera singing at the Institute of Music in Homs in central Syria.
“I wanted to sing the pain of my country,” Hamdan said during rehearsals.
The passions unleashed by the conflict followed Hamdan to Arab Idol and he has been -accused both of being a supporter of the regime and of the uprising against it that began in March 2011. He has reportedly even received death threats. The young singer said he has "nothing to do with politics" and wants to "sing for Syria and that's all".
“I’m singing about Syria: the Syria that exists for me and my grandfathers, the Syria that will remain after me and my children die.”
His passion has won over the audience, which welcomes his every performance with loud chants of "Syria! Syria!" – AFP
• Arab Idol is broadcast on Fridays at 10pm on MBC1
Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.