Quill and Quire


« Back to

But is there an Arab William Hung?

Talent show TV is as popular in Arab nations as it is in the West, according to a report in The Guardian. An Abu Dhabi-based show estimates it has an audience of 17 million. It’s just as glitzy as American Idol – with a beautiful, leggy host and winners chosen by viewers sending SMS text votes – but the contestants are not singing. They are reciting their own poetry.

Instead of the familiar mix of R&B ballads and selections from the Broadway songbook, contestants drawn from all the Arab nations recite their own poetry, composed in a traditional Bedouin style called Nabati that dates back to the fourth century. Even the judges are different: respected academics and poets who weigh the contestants use of metre and imagery with unfeigned sincerity, and none of the personalised slurs or gushing pronouncements of star quality one expects from Simon Cowell and his cohorts.

An audience of 17 million people watching the recitation of original verse….Do you ever get the sneaking suspicion that Western culture might be in decline?