DUBAI // For the residents of Dubai’s labour camps, life has a mundane pattern: wake up early, work long hours, run for the bus home, eat dinner, then sleep before repeating the drill the next morning.
But the men of Dubai’s Sonapur camp enjoyed a slight reprieve on Wednesday night, when the Western Union Camp Ka Champ singing contest held a round of auditions.
The four-month competition will crown one singer as the “champ of the camp” after their renditions – usually belted out in Hindi, Urdu or English.
Dubbed the Dubai Idols, the talent show is open to workers from 15 companies in 80 camps across the country.
More than 3,000 men are expected to put their vocal cords to the test in front of the microphone this year, and have their talents recognised.
Suraj Subba was first up before the judges on Wednesday at the ETA camp in Dubai – home to all of the winners of the past four years.
Dressed in a Brazilian football jersey, board shorts and sandals, Mr Subba got the competition under way with the Bollywood track, I am Not Angry with you my World.
Accompanied by only a keyboard player on a makeshift stage surrounded by advertising banners, the 25-year-old Nepalese security guard crooned for an crowd of curious neighbours, all sweating in the night’s high humidity.
Mr Subba was a semi-finalist last year and was part of an album recording featuring the best of the 2012 competition entrants.
Wednesday was his last chance to impress this year’s judges.
“I like the song,” he said. “But I work all day where I can’t sing. I only get to practise for about a half an hour a week.”
Mr Subba always dreamt of a career in music, but life dealt him a different hand.
“I studied singing and music in school for three years but had to drop it to get work,” he said. “My family is very poor and I had to provide for them. It would be a dream come true if I won this.”
All the competitors are judged and given an overall score. Once all the auditions in the camps are finished, those with the highest average are called back and invited to attend the final rounds.
Organised by Right Track Advertising, Camp Ka Champ is now in its eighth season.
“Western Union Camp Ka Champ has become an engagement platform to connect in a fun manner with the labour community of the UAE and discover the singing skills of our workers,” said Rupa Vinod, managing director of Right Track Advertising.
Modassir Nawaz, 26, a lift technician, also reached last year’s semi- finals.
“I never had any training or lessons in singing as I never had the chance,” he said. “The first time I entered, of course I was nervous but I saw all my friends and colleagues get up there and sing, and I felt more confident.”
Nirmal Kumar, from Bangladesh, had a bit of a competitive edge because he got to practise.
“I always sing at work,” said the 30-year-old carpenter. “I sing everywhere, but not in the bathroom.”
His boss, who is aware of Mr Kumar’s singing skills, called him two days before the trials and told him to make sure he was at the contest on Wednesday night.
With his friends and neighbours peering from the balconies of the four-storey blocks, Mr Kumar sang the Hindi tune, You’ve Come Like a Blossom Season.
This is his fourth attempt at the contest.
“I don’t mind if I get through or not,” he said, nodding to his new yellow T-shirt and an alarm clock. “I got my gifts for entering.”
The audition rounds will continue for the next two months at camps around the UAE.
Readers can follow the contest on the Camp Ka Champ Facebook page.