Young Jordanians on lockdown showcase ‘talent from home’ for hit contest

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by Mussa Hattar

An online talent contest created to keep young Jordanians busy as they sit out their country’s coronavirus lockdown has proved a hit, with thousands participating and millions watching.

Mahmoud Azzazi, 22, lives in a working-class neighbourhood of the capital Amman and is studying culinary arts, but has been turning his mind to music during the lockdown.

He was among the prize winners for his rendition of the song “Sway”, made famous by the likes of Dean Martin.

Jordan’s culture ministry launched the “My talent from my home” contest in late March, and says it has since attracted more than 67,000 participants and 18 million views on social networks.

With children under 16 prohibited from leaving their homes except in case of emergency, and with schools and universities still closed, the contest has provided a creative outlet for many young people.

Azzazi said the win had encouraged him to work on his voice.

“I hope to become a professional singer in the future,” he said.

Jordanian authorities imposed a strict round-the-clock curfew on March 21, with hundreds arrested in the following days for breaches.

Daytime movement restrictions have since been eased, but the curfew remains in force at night.

“I want to fly, nobody can clip my wings,” Taleen Hindeleh belted out from her bedroom in Amman, in a prize-winning rendition of a song by Lebanese artist Hiba Tawaji.

Contestants are divided into two groups — those aged 10 to 14 and 15 to 25. Categories include music, poetry, drawing and storytelling.

Participants must post a short video on social media with the Arabic hashtag “my talent from my home”, which is picked up by the culture ministry’s Facebook and YouTube accounts.

Five artists judge the videos — the number of views and likes on social media are considered — and Jordanian television broadcasts a selection of award-winning entries each week.

Hindeleh said being in lockdown at home in Amman with her father, a professional singer, had its advantages.

“He guides me and coaches me”, said the 20-year-old student, who also plays piano.

Jordan has officially declared 461 cases of novel coronavirus, including nine deaths. (AFP)

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