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Arabs Got Talent: Epic 1st Semi reveals the Arab male prima donna Maxim

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Last week, MBC aired the first episode of the semi finals of the show of the times Arabs Got Talent, after 6 segments of the run of audition episodes. A possible 48 contestants - with a whole assortment of talents - were cleared by a talented, at times conflicted, jury to the semi finals.

The semi finals rest on the viewer-vote. The user-generated selection carried opera Lebanese divo Maxim Al Shami into the final round, whereas the judges' choice Eqyptian contestant Hussein Al Rasmi to move onto the final rounds.

The episode opened on a sombre but suitably talent-recognising note, with Najwa Karam offering her condolences to the recently departed singer Warda. She underscored this Algerian Rose's contributions and legacy, noting "she was a great singer, who left a void in the world of the arts". The audience and show hosts offered their collective marks of respects, standing ovations etc.

The first contestant Yasser, who is Iraqi, came up with a new and innovative act were he re-enacted the unforgettable defining role of Jim Carey, in The Mask. Batman and Superman also starred in his backing crew on stage. The judge panel were impressed enough to agree on his attributes that stood the test of this prelim semi-final.

Notwithstanding the success of his balancing act, the jury of Arabs Got Talent admitted to their own nerves losing balance during Hussein Rasmi's performance. Hussein was able, in balancing precariously on some glasses, followed by treading multiple cylinders, to take people's breath away. This unique and balanced performance left him poised for the next challenge in the final rounds.

Moroccan group 'Toni Crew' presented an act full of magic and circus-like acts. The group wore bizarre costumes, but it seemed that that it didn't matter which way they dressed it up since there was not enough substance for our discerning talent-spotting panel. After their performance Ali said,"I am disappointed with the performance, I was expecting something better, what we saw was not any better than the first audition. Some bits of your performance were good, but not at the level expected". Najwa Karam agreed with Ali Jabber, and Nasser concurred," I was hoping to see a better performance". Keep hoping, talent scouting judges!

The judges of Arabs Got Talent, displayed a united front and a rare show of consensus in wording and verdict that Maxim Al Shami's voice shook them, after his knock-out show of opera singing for these semis. Al Shami shook-up more than the stage with his strong voice. Najwa commented by saying, "this style suits you, and you are well suited for this style...I'm not usually 'shaken' by things, unless they cause me to be shaken... You shook me. You possess tenderness, and a deep velvety voice; I have never seen all these qualities in one person, I really like you". Nasser Al Qasabi agreed with Najwa's shaken-stirred verdict,"I second what Najwa had to say; I say I like you; Maxim you shook us from the first round, and you mesmerize us even more every day". A shaky spectacle, that caused more loss in balance, but a sound verdict!

The judges praised Jordanian contestant Mustafa Mohammed, although they criticized his singing. The most positive feed back he received came from the quarters of Judge Ali Jaber who said,"I am with Mustafa in many aspects, first and foremost being inspiring story; he did not give up on account of his disability. Sharing his story could create awareness for people to drive safely."  Both Najwa and Nasser agreed with Ali Jaber's two cents, supporting Mustafa's cause, tenacity and decision to challenge his disability. The judges however disapproved of his choice of song, "Make me forget the world" by Ragheb Alama , saying that he muted his emotions by going with that number.

Ali Jaber changed his mind about Tunisian contestant Lidya Al Asali, after her performance. The Tunisian child wonder performed an act that combined gymnastics and a strung up sheet prop that saw her hanging on the judge's words. She showed a great deal of limberness that pleased everyone.  Ali, swayed by her supple maneuvers, remarked, "I think that we saw great flexibility in her body; I am happy that her performance was aesthetically pleasing." Najwa reinforced this pleased verdict, predicting world stardom for the little girl.

Another staged trick that captivated all was another Jordanian act, by Basem Bunduq. This man promised to astound the judges. This confident chap was able to read the minds of two girls from the audience who were randomly chosen by Ali Jaber. He asked one of the girls to choose from one of many drawings that he had, asking the other girl to randomly draw anything that came to her mind. To everyone's surprise the girls ended up drawing exactly matching images. This stunt according to Basem, was first executed back in 1930.

Just before announcing the finalist, the show presented a neat little surprise to keep the Arab audience diverted in the interlude while voters voted: an exclusive premier of the song "Yalla" by Saudi artist Qusay Khadr - who also happens one of the presenters. The song is one of many potential hits for this leading Arab hip hop star featured in his new album by Platinum Records.

The song, written by Qusay, is framed in a duet between Khader and  singer Farah, and ensconced in a blend of Hip Hop and the traditional Dabke. The stage and show lit up as soon as Qusay launched into his act. The judges gave him their vote of approval as they joined in with the chorus, supported by a thrilled audience.

Two talents, Maxim Al Shami and Hussein Rasmi, on the back of the highest number of votes, were selected to move through to the finals. They will join other semi-finalists to compete for the prize of USD 133.3 thousand, plus a Chevrolet Camaro, cause Arabs love cars!

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