Duo crowned Dubai’s Camp Ka Champs

The pair, from India and Nepal, were delighted to win the competition. They each receive Dh7,500, return tickets home and electronics.

Mohammed Shazad Ali, 32, from India, right, and Kushal Sunar, 22, from Nepal celebrate clinching the Western Union Camp Ka Champ title at the Jiwin Staff Accomodation in Muhaisanah 2, Sonapur.  Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // An Indian crane operator and a Nepali cleaning supervisor are this year’s Western Union Camp Ka Champs.

The ETA Group singing duo of Indian Mohammed Shazad Ali, 32, and Kushal Sunar, 22, powered through the three finals rounds on Thursday night to take the title.

More than 4,000 workers, many of whom had been bused in from labour camps from across Dubai and Sharjah, cheered their colleagues and favourites during the singing competition at the Jiwin Compound in Sonapur.

“I feel amazing to have won this competition,” said Mr Ali.

“I never expected to have come so far and to win – it is unbelievable.”

Mr Sunar was almost speechless after winning.

“I don’t have the words to say how I feel,” he said. “I still can’t believe what has happened.

Mr Ali has been in Dubai for five and a half years and decided not to tell his family back home about making it to the finals.

“I thought I would leave it as a surprise because now they will be really happy,” he said. “Singing has been a dream of mine since I was young and I thought the chance to perform in front of people had passed me by.

“But this competition has helped me to realise that dream.”

The winners each receive Dh7,500 in cash vouchers, return tickets home, widescreen TVs and other electronics.

The runners up were given Dh1,500 in cash vouchers and electronics, and the third-placed team won Dh1,000 in cash vouchers.

Although the duo comfortably won the first two rounds of the final, the tension mounted in the big one.

“I was concerned in the last round because the answers were worth more points and the other teams were catching up with us,” said Mr Ali.

“At one point I thought we had lost our chance but thankfully we managed to get through.”

He had been using every spare minute to practise his singing and improve his knowledge of Bollywood songs.

“For the last three months I was taking every free minute I had to practise and I’m so happy it has worked out,” Mr Ali said.

He plans to send his prizes to his family in India.

Mr Sunar, who works as a cleaning site supervisor, has been in Dubai for only a year.

“I had done a lot of practice and memorised many songs but I was still worried that I had missed something or I would forget,” he said.

“My wish is to become a performer and sing professionally. I really hope winning this competition will help me progress to do that.”

The evening began with the semi-finals as 36 contestants were split into teams of two, then whittled down to three teams for the final.

The finalists had to perform Bollywood songs after hearing a short tune, and sing about a random object.

In the final round they had to identify Bollywood stars and sing as many of their songs as possible in a minute.

This year there was more than 3,200 entries, making it the biggest Camp Ka Champ in its eight-year history. It involved auditions in over 100 camps.

“The atmosphere is electric and becomes more and more raucous as the evening progresses,” said Vinod Kumar, director of Right Track Advertising, which organises the competition.

“The standard of entries we get improves each year as contestants get better and we expect that trend to continue.

“We are very proud of how the labourers have taken to it and for me the best thing about the whole event is seeing the faces of those people who take part.

“One of the things we wanted to do was show people a different side to labourers. There are many talented people out there and this competition gives them a platform to shine.”

The winners of the inaugural Camp Ka Champ Unplugged for those who sing in English were also handed their prizes on the night.

nhanif@thenational.ae