“Arab Idol” New Orleans concert promotes peace in the Middle East


Turab Beladi, a Michigan-based Arab Debkah dance group, opening for Ahmed Fahmi and Ameer Dandan. Oct. 1 2017 Photo credit: Caleb Beck

Caleb Beck

“Arab Idol” stars Ameer Dandan and Ahmed Fahmi took to Loyola’s Roussel Hall stage Sunday as the final stop on their international charity fundraising tour.

Joined by Palestinian folk dance group Turab Beladi, the duo played to over 500 attendees, almost packing out the theater hall. Proceeds of each concert on the twelve-stop tour are being donated to provide MRI and X-ray equipment to hospitals in the West Bank territory and Syria.

Sabrine Mohamad, political science senior, organized the event on behalf of Loyola’s Middle East peace studies program. She called the show a rousing success, and said she’d like to see a lasting impact from the performance. “I’m hoping after this event there will not be such a bridge between Muslims and non-Muslims in the city. Music has such a rich history in New Orleans as well as diversity, so why not mix the two? I also hope this concert helps to put New Orleans on the map, allowing us to put on such events again in the future,” Mohamad said.

Fahmi and Dandan performed on behalf of The Life for Relief and Development organization, whose administrative assistant, Alaa Aburahmeh, introduced Life’s simple mission statement to the audience. “We have one goal here, build a smile on a little kid’s face,” Aburahmeh said.

“Arab Idol” is the most viewed program in the Middle East and North Africa, with the 2017 finale drawing in 120 million viewers. The New Orleans audience burst into applause when both Fahmi and Dandan took the stage.

Roughly $34,953 dollars was raised from the performance towards health care, medical supplies and equipment in Syria and Palestine.

Mohamad said the crowd reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

“My favorite part of the show was by far seeing the happiness within the audience as they engaged with the performers,” Mohamad said.

In attendance was Rula Thabata, political science senior, who said that she was elated to see traditional Arabic music get such a warm response from New Orleans’ Muslim community. “During the performances I felt joy and the energy of joy from the audience. It felt familiar and distinct,” Thabata said.

Between Ahmed Fahmi and Ameer Dandan, Mohamad spoke to the crowd about the upcoming Loyola peace conference in spring, where students engage in social activism and philanthropy projects.

“The student peace conference allows a platform for students to present their own peace work. I think with last night, a whole new door was opened, allowing for dialogue concerning peace among students and people doing field work,” Mohamad said.

Reflecting on the night, Thabata said events such as this advocate peace among communities locally and internationally, and she was happy to see her non-Muslim friends experiencing her Arabic culture.

“Music promotes peace in fundraising concerts like this because people are brought together to celebrate life, and joy for a greater cause. Music promotes the desire to do good while already broadening our horizons to the possibilities,” Thabata said.

Mohamad finished her speech by thanking the donors and audience members.

“Tonight, each and every one of us have helped in our own way have insured that people in Palestine and Syria are given their basic right to life, because we all deserve a life,” Mohamad said.