Review: Camp Ka Champ at Mahmovies

Last night's Mahmovies at thejamjar was a very special night in Dubai. It started off with Sita Songs the Blues - which isn't what made the night special. It was the live singing performance after it that captured everyone's hearts.

I won’t review Sita Sings the Blues here, but will just say that this 'Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told' is worth watching for it's quirky animation and great music. You can watch it online or download it for free here.

Now to the special part…


Nine charming singers from the Camp Ka Champ (Champ of the Camp) a singing competition that takes place annually across Dubai’s labour camps crooned for us a cappella style.

We don't get to interact with the labour community here, not in a social space where everyone feels equal. So to have an event like this, which in essence is having a bunch of blue collared workers singing for a bunch of white collared audience at a gallery space in Al Quoz is unheard of. An event like this is a chance to break down barriers, so many welcomed the idea with open arms. But some naysayers wondered if this would be a night where the blue collared folks would be patronised by the white collared folks.

For a change, I was actually not cynical when I first saw this event in the line up of this season of Mahmovies. I told myself this would be a night to celebrate a positive story, a concert to enjoy some singing by a group that are passionate about singing in front of a new audience that will appreciate them. So I was glad Mahmoud (the man behind Mahmovies) echoed my thoughts when he introduced the singers to us. He said it wasn’t about having to feel the need to help by donating money, it was about interacting with the people that built the city we live in, in a way that was never done before.

All nine singers were great and I regret not noting down their names here to give them credit, but I will try and get this information soon and update this post.

Each one of them sang Bollywood tunes, old and new - each in his own unique style and character. All are passionate about singing and although some of them were shy at first, seeing the crowd cheering and clapping along to their songs made them feel in their element.

To think the Champ da Camp has been going on since 2007, and for many it was never heard off before last night, made me realise what a shame Dubai doesn't celebrate stories like this to a wider audience. Apart from a handful of articles I found when I was researching this competition online, there really isn't much being said about this event to an audience outside the labour camps. These are the kinds of stories I wish journalists outside Dubai pick up and write about, instead of the constant doom and gloom scenario depicted that seems to be the trend whenever it's time for a Dubai story.

Last night was one of the most endearing musical performances I’ve attended in Dubai. We celebrated the positive side of Dubai and think it’s time this happens more often.

Articles related to Camp ka Champ:
Budding stars enjoy their moment in the Camp ka Champ spotlight
Labourers sing while they work ahead of 'Dubai Idol'
Dubai Idol tunes up labour camps

Update on 2010-02-17 21:24:
Shady Enbashy has now uploaded his photoblog with some good photos from the night.
Check them out here: