Nessma TV kicks off Star Academy Maghreb
Text and photos by Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 19/03/07
After several weeks of waiting, Nessma TV viewers saw Moroccan television host Nabila Kilani announce the official launch of the first Star Academy Maghreb competition Friday (March 16th).
In the presence of a group of known artists, among them Tunisian singer Saber Rebai and Libyan Cheb Jilani, audiences were treated for the first time to a look at the 14 finalists who will compete in the first regional singing competition over the next four months.
The finalists are: Faten: Tunisia, 23; Khairi: Libya, 18; Kaoutar: Morocco, 21; Jameleddine: Algeria, 25; Hajar: Morocco, 20; Ahmed: Libya, 23; Farah: France, 19; Farid: Algeria, 22; Yosra: Tunisia, 19; Abdelhamid: Morocco, 29; Soraya: Tunisia, 24; Badredine: France, 32; Dounia: Algeria, 22; Firas: Tunisia, 22.
Dressed in chic traditional attire and appearing before a rich red backdrop, host Kilani addressed television audiences "from Tobruk to Casablanca" and introduced the first performance: a Tunisian-Libyan duo singing a traditional Tunisian song, "Hazz Ayounik". Other performances followed, alternating between Western and local singing.
Meriam Bezzazi, media representative for Nessma TV, told Magharebia that Friday was a strong opening, and the large number of text messages the channel received from all over the Maghreb and France [broadcast at the bottom of the screen] "forecasts the very best and indicates that the numbers of viewers would increase as the competitions heated up". Since the launch of the test broadcast last month, the channel has received short messages from all over the Maghreb, most of them expressing happiness about the launch of a channel pertaining to the Maghreb. The channel's programming will initially be limited to Star Academy.
Recently Nabil Karoui, whose Karoui and Karoui group owns Nessma TV, said the staff that will oversee the students throughout the competition are "experts in the world of performing arts, such as Algerian artist Baziz and Tunisian director Khadija Al-Makshar".
Maghreb audiences will be able to watch the first "prime" -- the weekly performance where all contestants showcase their talents -- on March 23rd.
The Karoui brothers expressed their satisfaction with early indicators after Nessma TV’s test broadcast, saying they "[push] us to work more and more to make this first Maghreb experiment a success".
Viewer Hichem Dissem, a French language teacher, said he had hoped Nessma TV would open with another programme, "so the audience wouldn’t be surprised by the launch of Star Academy Maghreb straight off". Hajeur Baklouti, an agricultural engineer, said she was bored watching the Star Academy launch, and was not even pleased with the decor. "I think they will realise this … we [shouldn’t] forget that it’s the first step and we’ll wait to see how things develop", Baklouti said.
Faicel Khammassi, a young North African immigrant from the French city of Sartrouville, complained of his inability to watch the programme. "It’s hard for North Africans in France, and especially residents of apartment buildings, to follow Nessma TV. All houses are equipped with [television] sets that don’t receive NileSat and Arabsat services, and French law prohibits us from installing receivers above the roofs of apartment buildings". Faicel wished "Nessma TV would consider broadcasting its programmes over the Hot Bird satellite".
To promote Star Academy Maghreb and its other programmes, Nessma TV has enlisted the help of celebrities from across the Maghreb, including Algerian Khaled and Tunisians Saber Rebai and Latifa Arfaoui.
Network representatives have said that all of programming will be in local Maghreb dialects, the first such effort made on this scale.
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