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The5 on getting Arab girls to ‘see the real them’

We meet the Middle Eastern heart-throbs in Dubai as they finish crowdfunded, girl-empowerment single

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A group of five stylish, good-looking young men with melodious voices reached the last stage of a televised singing contest, and though they didn’t win, they were widely appreciated. Their fan base mostly consists of young girls, and they have millions of views on their videos. No, we’re not talking about One Direction, even though The5’s Kazem Chamas bears a striking resemblance to Zayn Malik.

“Of course we want to be in the level of their fame, but we don’t want to be ‘them’ or something,” said singer and guitarist Said Karmouz on comparisons with the English band.

“It’s not like we’re copying a band,” said his bandmate Mohammad Bouhezza aka BMD, the group’s rapper in response. “It may be the same scenario but [we’re] a whole ’nother thing.”

The5, consisting of Egyptian Ahmad Hassan, Moroccan Adil Echbiy, Chamas, from Lebanon, and Algerians Said Karmouz and BMD, has been rising in popularity ever since it got together on the X Factor Middle East.

The band is in Dubai this week to finish a crowdfunded single, titled #SeeTheRealMe.

The band partnered with the girl empowerment initiative of the same name by skincare brand Clean&Clear, and launched a songwriting contest for young Arab women earlier this year. The winners, 14-year-old Zaynab and 12-year-old Thalia, are now collaborating with The5 to write the single.

“We were so nervous, much more than they were! We were shaking. We were supposed to surprise them but we were surprised [instead],” said BMD on working with the winners, as Hassan mimicked his heart beating out of his chest.

The song is on track to be completed this week, and with it, the band wants to send an empowering message to young girls in a region that has long been criticised and stereotyped for the roles its women play, or are expected to play, within their families.

“We just want all our fans and everyone in the Middle East to not be scared or be afraid. If you have talent, if you have anything to show to the people, you have to do it. Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy, just do it,” said Hassan.

“It’s just about confidence and believing in yourself and this is our message in the end. We want every girl in Middle East to believe in herself and show her talent,” said Echbiy. “[We want] to see the real her.”

And while the gender-specific initiative might have been welcomed gladly by female fans — more than 2,000 entries were received from girls across Mena [Middle East and North Africa region] — The5 want to assure their male audiences that they are not trying to alienate them.

“We may have something for boys too, next,” said Karmouz with a suggestive shrug of the shoulders. “We have a lot of surprises [coming up],” said Chamas, and then motioned for patience, while the other members looked on and grinned knowingly.

The band’s admirers would presumably be willing to remain patient until the band releases new material, which will be a series of singles introduced one after the next, and these will ultimately be compiled into an album. The band’s catchy music and popularity seem to be influenced by the fact that its members come from different Arab countries, with variations in dialect and culture.

“You know, that’s the thing that makes us stronger and I think the difference of accents and cultures gave us the opportunity to make different types of music,” said BMD. “Because in the Arab world, you can find twenty types of music, depending on the country and we can all give ideas — everyone from his country, his culture, and the type of music he likes to hear. That’s what makes us stronger and different, if I can say.”

The band have so far released three singles named Al Donia Shabab (The World is Young), Bel Gharam (In Love) and Heya Kida Al Haya (That’s How Life Is), the last of which was chosen by beIN to be its Summer of Football song. Their videos on YouTube have amassed over 3 million views combined, and they have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. And as their celebrity grows, so does the fervent, sometimes intrusive adoration of fans — but unlike many world-weary personalities, The5 embrace the attention with open arms.

“It’s amazing, every time a fan comes to you and wants to take a selfie or picture, it’s always a pleasure. You can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s amazing, it shows how much you guys love us,” said BMD.

“This is what we wanted. Of course we like it,” said Karmouz. “No fame, no fans.”

 

— Sayema Wasi is an intern at Gulf News.

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