I was walking around New York City yesterday, totally trying to mind my own business by checking Facebook and trying not to feel dwarfed by the high rises around me when my Lebanese friends broke some terribly heartbreaking news to me, as I stood there in Times Square.
It was one of those Facebook moments where you get bad news you’re supposed to get over a phone call via a status instead, sort of like when I learned that a relative died because someone decided to post a picture of her with a RIP caption before they had told everyone else. But this, this was worse.
For lack of better analogy, the news I received on Facebook yesterday was devastating, gut-wrenching and so haunting it might as well be my own version of 9/11. How could it be? It can’t be.
Hiba Tawaji, the Lebanese that showed France how it is to actually sing in French, was no more on the amateur talent show The Voice. But that didn’t make sense? How could Hiba Tawaji lose? How could the person that is now teaching the entire world what singing actually consists of end up with such a heinous outcome? How could the country that gave the world music, art and the alphabet be so terribly offended?
It must have been a conspiracy. Those French people are clearly obviously out there to get us, poor gullible Lebanese whose only fault in this world was being born in the most wonderful, most loved and most vied for country in the world. Clearly, those French were jealous. Clearly, they had a thing against us. 4 Lebanese candidates on 4 seasons of France’s The Voice are now all martyrs to the Lebanese artistic cause of becoming nobodies in Western Europe. Clearly I wasn’t gonna sit down and be quiet about this.
There are two things that make me proud of Lebanon today: hummus and Hiba Tawaji. The latter losing was a stab in the heart of my nationalistic pride. How are we not protesting this serious violation of our basic and most fundamental right as Lebanese people to be the shit of the shit at every single location where a shit can be shat? This is unacceptable. No, scratch that. This is not only unacceptable, this is worthy of a UN tribunal, more pressing than the STL, to investigate the serious backwater works that are going into this serious breach of Lebanese sovereignty taking place inside the studios of TF1.
So because I’m a masochist, I decided to watch the video of Hiba losing. I swear, that was a worse experience to my mental health than seeing all the mutilated bodies of Syrian children. I am scarred for life. I wept for Hiba. I cut for Hiba. I hung a Lebanese flag around my neck and walked around Brooklyn for Hiba. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to bring back the pride I lost with Hiba being so wrongly targeted… #JeSuisIba.
TL;DR? Hiba Tawaji lost. The country is mourning. And this is all too heartbreaking and tough to process. Or maybe not. Shit happens in talent shows. It was fun while it lasted, now let’s look at more serious things, like being interested in drunk driving and Haifa Wehbe’s English career.
Hiba Tawaji has won her part of the knockout stages (epreuve ultime) in France’s The Voice – the last of the previously taped segments of the show – and has advanced to the finals of the show, the live shows.
Starting next week, Hiba along with 3 other candidates in her team, will perform a song of their choice to the public live after which audiences will get a chance to vote for all candidates, making sure one of them proceeds to the following week in the progress while the coach chooses who of the other candidates remains and one is eliminated.
If the hype is to be believed, Tawaji has a good chance at advancing in the live shows. Her performances are reportedly among the most watched of the show (her audition has over 1 million hits on YouTube and over 600,000 on TF1’s website, well ahead of all auditions of the show).
In the knockout stage, Tawaji performed Christina Aguilera’s signature song “Fighter.” She did well, but was criticized for her song choice as the coaches felt it didn’t suit her quite well. It’s telling, in my opinion, when an artist as good as Hiba Tawaji has trouble with song selection. It goes to show how far our artists are sheltered, maybe even left without artistic freedom, in their careers.
Either way, French audiences were very receptive of the song.
This is a video of the performance courtesy of my blog’s Facebook page (click).
It is worth noting that part of Mika’s team for the live shows includes an Israeli, named Sharon Lalom. For the upcoming live shows, Hiba Tawaji will be battling it out with Sharon for people’s votes and Mika’s favor. She may end up finding herself in a picture with her, in the same television frame as her or whatnot. Let us do our best as Lebanese not to fall into the traps of accusing her of treason for participating.
This is our chance to show that, at a simple ultimately useless talent show, we can take the higher road and “resist” by actually winning, showing that the talents of our country are great enough on their own merit and can kick anyone’s ass, Israeli or not.
Good luck to her!
Is it me or are Lebanese women on a roll these couple of days? Rima Karaki is now making headlines around the world for shutting up an Islamist (link), and Hiba Tawaji just presented another side of Lebanese women and artists during her battle on France’s The Voice.
On Françoise Hardy’s classic “Mon Ami La Rose” (YouTube link), Hiba battled 41 year old year Nög in an oriental remix of the very-subdued song, allowing her to show a different side of her voice. Nög, Hiba’s challenger, gave her a run for her money. He was absolutely excellent. The level of competition between him and Hiba has showed that there’s no such thing as someone “professional” competing against “amateurs.” They are all professionals who know what they’re doing, and at 41 Nög probably has a lot of experience under his belt that helped him almost beat the Lebanese contestant.
Ultimately, Mika chose Hiba and Nög was taken by Zazie, another coach.
French audiences were also quite receptive to Hiba’s performance:
This is a video of the performance:
Let me know if the video is removed and I’ll find another version. You can also check the video on LBC’s news page (link).
The Point Behind Following Hiba On France’s The Voice:
I saw a lot of people wonder what’s the point behind the interest in Hiba’s path on France’s The Voice and how it reflects on Lebanon or us as people. It’s a certain thing that Tawaji on The Voice ultimately boosts her career as a priority and reflects little on us. But there’s more to it than that, even if it’s a little gullible to think so.
By being “la Libanaise,” she is giving the French a face of the country that they don’t usually see. It’s not much for sure, and it may be part of our collective hopeless thinking of improving our reputation bit by bit at all means possible. Either way, as a country we’ve gotten interested in so many useless things that I honestly don’t get the point in going up in a fit about this just because people are getting excited about a Lebanese being on it.
Good luck to Hiba on the rest of the show. She’s not in the finals just yet, but next time she’s live she will be up for people voting.
Hiba Tawaji just blew everyone away at France’s The Voice, as was expected. She started off singing Michel Legrand’s “Les Moulins De Mon Coeur” before going into her own Lebanese version of the song “La Bidayi Wala Nihayi” prompting all four judges to turn for her.
Hiba then continued singing effortlessly before ending her performance with a high note that got all 4 judges to give her a standing ovation, as well as have the audience attending the taping rise to their feet to applause her.
This is Hiba’s performance:
She ended up choosing Mika as her coach for the rest of the show.
French audiences were also extremely receptive of her. “Libanaise” and “Hiba” both trended on Twitter worldwide. The following is a sample of the tweets that I screenshot as people gushed about her performance:
Even the head of Universal Music France was blown away by her:
I saw a lot of Lebanese people wonder how it makes sense for someone as accomplished as Hiba Tawaji to end up on a French talent show.
I think someone as talented and as vocally adept as Tawaji is limited by the scope of what she can do in a country like Lebanon. Her talent can easily find a place in an international scene, with France being the easiest stepping stone as The Voice has proven to be receptive for Lebanese talents as Hiba Tawaji is the fourth Lebanese in four seasons to participate.
Sure, participating in a talent show doesn’t necessarily translate to instant success, nor does it mean she is sure to win the show. But if there’s any Lebanese that can have a shot at reaching the finals (the best outcome so far was Anthony Touma reaching the semi-finals in season 2), it’s her – and her audition only serves to prove that point: out of all 4 Lebanese, she was the best by far.
Moreover, Hiba Tawaji has been around for several years now, and her state of success, albeit impressive, is easily dwarfed by much less talented but more busted female singers in the country, which means that she is quite under-appreciated here for the level of art she is presenting.
Naturally, there will also be those who tell us that there are more important things to worry about. Of course there are more important things that Lebanese should be preoccupied with. At times like these when our army soldiers are bravely dying to let us watch such TV shows safely in the confines of our homes, and when there’s little to be optimistic about at the state of the country actually, such a moment can serve to unwind. And that’s not really a bad thing.
The French are referring to Hiba as “la Libanaise.” She represents us and is doing so extremely well. As such, Hiba Tawaji has made us all proud today and best of luck to her progression on the show.