Two youngsters from Dubai stood out during the blind auditions phase on the first season of The Voice Kids on MBC.
Dozens of kids between the ages of 7 and 15 took to the stage during the auditions, which wrapped up on Saturday night.
The judges – Iraqi superstar Kazem “The Caesar” Saher, Lebanese pop star Nancy Ajram and Egyptian actor and singer Tamer Hosny – chose 15 participants each, who they will mentor and prepare for the next round, titled The Battles.
Mona Hajir, who lives in Dubai with her Palestinian father and Russian mother, could not contain her joy at being chosen to be part of Ajram’s team.
"I'm so happy, I love you! I promise to do better," she said. The 11-year-old began her audition singing the Selena Gomez hit Naturally, then switched seamlessly into Arabic, and sang Ajram's song El Donia Helwa (The World is Beautiful).
Laila Abu Hamdan, also from Dubai, sang the Leona Lewis chart-topper Bleeding Love, and ended up on Al Saher's team. The 13-year-old, originally from Lebanon, came to the audition with her parents, who have been investing in singing lessons for their teenager and her younger brother, who assured his big sister "you can do this".
“I’m nervous, there’s no room for error,” said Laila, ahead of her audition. After her performance, Al Saher said to her: “I felt that there was something beautiful on stage, your voice gives me joy. I feel happiness while listening to you sing.”
The contestants included refugees from Palestine and Syria.
Ghina Bou Hemdan, 9, from Syria, moved all three judges to tears with her rendition of Atoona El Toufouli, meaning "Give Us Childhood", by Lebanese child singer Remi Bandali. Ghina broke down when Ajram said she wanted her on her team, so the judge quickly walked to the stage to help Ghina get through the rest of her performance and sing through the tears. When the judges asked why she cried, Ghina said: "I'm so happy now."
• The Voice Kids is on MBC and MBC Masr on Saturdays at 10pm. The live finale will be held in Beirut on March 5. Stream previous episodes on www.shahid.net