Mawazine Festival 2017: Najwa Karam talks Arabs Got Talent finale and the characteristic of Lebanese music

Najwa Karam performed on Thursday as part of the Mawazine Festival in Rabat Morocco. Courtesy Youness Hamiddine
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With the finale of the fifth season of Arabs Got Talent airing on Saturday, Najwa Karam says her experience on the judging panel has reinforced an age old truth.

“Actual talent carries all us artists to the end,” she says, before her performance at the Mawazine Festival in Morocco on Wednesday.

“Such things are undeniable, you are automatically drawn to someone who has amazing talent. I have seen it time and time again, you can’t help but feel moved when you see something that is brilliant.”

With the winner to be chosen solely through public voting and without influence from the judging panel, Karam was free to discuss her favourites from the final crop of 12 contestants.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, she pointed to the two singers: the Jordanian child soprano Iman Beisha (who moved Karam to tears in her audition) and Morocco’s Abeer Abed.

“I just felt so touched when I saw those two. There was a purity to their performances that I loved. But I was also moved by people who were not singing as well. The final also has contestants who are dancers and who did hip-hop.”

Indeed, both Bisha and Al Shameity are part of an eclectic finalist list that include Algerian dancers and acrobats: Blida Gymnastique, Bar Generation and Djamel Benyahia.

From Morocco hail the circus troupe Mustafa Danguir, illusionists Moraz Teif Al Khayal, dancer Sarah Vagabond and singer Iman Al Shameity. Rounding off the list is the dance crew Freelusion from Syria and Palestine and Egyptian dancer Norhal Kateb.

Karam is looking forward to taking a back seat and watching all the action unfold. “It is ultimately it is up to the public and believe me it is all out of our hands,” she says. “In the judging panel we also don’t know what will happen till the winner is declared.”

When it comes to her own talent, Karam says she understands her limitations. For example, you won’t be catching her appearing in a film or television drama anytime soon. “I don’t see myself getting into acting,” she says. “I know my strengths and weakness and music is where it is for me.

The Arabs Got Talent finale kicks off another busy music season for Karam. Promoting her soon to be released new album, Menni Elek, Karam has released up to seven lyric videos on her Youtube account in addition to a music video for the lead single Habibi Min.

While not ground breaking, the new songs should keep Karam fans happy with its mix of rich ballads (Habibi Min and Ah Mnel Gharam) and her signature dabke folk tracks such as Yahraqlek Qalbak and Ta'ab Bawred Bi Albi.

Karam says she approaches each album without a specific goal in mind. “There is a spiritual aspect to how I work in that I don’t have a real plan,” she says. “I just follow where the songs take me. When the project is finished then it is intended by God that it is to be so.”

With a near three decade career and over 50 million albums sold, the 51-year-old Karam says she is honoured to be an a global ambassador for Lebanese music. It is a distinction she shares with the likes of fellow musical heavy weights Assi El Helani and Wael Kfoury. With the passing away of arguably Lebanon’s most revered singer, Wadih El Safi, in 2013 (“you wont find someone like him for another 1000 years,”), Karam states she and her peers have an even greater responsibility to maintain the Lebanese song tradition.

When it comes to the current state of Lebanese music she says commerciality is currently trumping artistic integrity. “What I say is the Lebanese song is not just about the artist having the charisma to sing” she says. “It needs to also to have character and depth like our mountains. Style and the fashion are off course important but superficial. It is all about the heart of the songs, they need to have the sincerity that showcases the identity of our nation. The fact that we have faced and overcame struggles and we, as a people, are resilient. If you can’t show or point to these qualities than the Lebanese song you are doing wont be successful.”

Arabs Got Talent is on MBC and MBC4 at 10pm on Saturday. For details go to