Arab Idol’s Japanese contestant vows to ‘never stop singing Arabic songs’

Japanese 'Arab Idol' contestant Nao Koyasu speaks about her thrilling time on the show

Japanese singer Nao Koyasu. MBC
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She may have not made it through to the live rounds, which begin this weekend, but Nao Koyasu described her short stint on Arab Idol as "an amazing ­experience".

The Japanese singer made waves across the region after stunning the judges at her Dubai audition with a dazzling rendition of the Fairuz classic Aatini Al Nai.

Although her second appearance last weekend – as part of a group performance of another Fairuz hit, Sa'alouni El Nas – didn't make the judges' cut, a teary Koyasu left the show having made a big impression.

“I have already made some fans who love my Arabic music,” she says. “I believe Japanese people also enjoy Arabic music, and I think it’s so beautiful.”

Egyptian judge and producer Hassan El Shafei applauded Koyasu for her bridge-building efforts. He lauded her performance on the programme last week and expressed his gratitude for her “to be here and to learn our music and to learn a lot of details that maybe some other Arabic native speakers cannot do as well as you”.

The 29-year-old told of her first foray into Arabic music as a university student, after coming across a CD of classic Arab songs.

“I was shocked by the sounds, in a positive way,” she says. “It contains sensitive tones and different pronunciations of words that I never heard before. It has a lot of depth and a rhythm that encourages people to dance.”

While the Lebanese diva Fairuz is her favourite Arab singer, Koyasu says she also became a fan of other artists such as Egypt’s Mohammed Abdel Wahab and the Syrian-Egyptian singer Fayza Ahmed.

Already an accomplished singer in Tokyo, Koyasu immersed herself in Arabic songs during a three-month stay in Tunis in 2011, where she studied Arab singing.

After returning to Tokyo, she studied Arab music culture at university, and with her professor, Yoshiko Matuda, helped to establish the Japanese Arabic music ensemble Le Club Bachra.

It was a fan of the band that encouraged Koyasu to enter the latest season of Arab Idol. After contacting the show's producers, Koyasu was encouraged to make the journey to Beirut, and eventually Dubai, as part of the auditions for the show.

With her hopes of Arab Idol glory dashed, Koyasu admits she is unsure about her next steps.

However, she is happy to walk away from the experience with “friends from many Arab countries and we always keep in touch”.

One thing, she says, is for sure: “I will never stop singing Arabic songs, ever.”