Boaz Mauda, a young 20 year old singer of Yemenite extraction, won Israel’s 5th Star is Born song contest Wednesday before a live crowd of more than 40,000 and a television audience of at least 3 million. Produced this year as an outside venue, on the placid eastern shores of Lake Kinneret; Boaz finally won the songfest, after receiving the largest number of phone-in votes from the more than 900,000 who participated in a one hour phone-in voting for the three finalists, who also included Marina Maximillian Blumin, who came in 2nd, and Shlomi Barel., who finished 3rd.
This year’s contest, which began with literally hundreds of young (and not so young) singer ‘wannabees’ signing up, seems to be turning into a bigger and bigger “hype-fest” by the program’s producer Zvika “Jo-Jo” Hadar, whose overall TV ratings must have soared even higher as a result of this 8 week program that has captured more prime time viewers that just about anything else on Israeli TV.
Boaz, who had well known singer and guitarist David Broza as his mentor and accompaniment on the first song number that he performed, appears to continue a long list of Israeli singers and entertainers of Yemenite origin who have become successful in the entertainment world. A few of these include Yaffa Yarkoni, Ofra Haza, Ischar Cohen, and Gali Atari. What was interesting in this year’s competition what that the three finalists represented three distinct segments of Israel’s multi-ethnic population. Besides Boaz Mauda’s Yemenite background, Marina Blumin hails from Israel’s million-plus Russian population, and Shlomi Barel from the country’s large Moroccan origin population; most of whom immigrated to Israel in the early 1950’s.
All three finalists have been promised recording and stage contracts; but obviously Boaz came out with the best deals which also included a new Chevrolet car. It might of have been nice to have seen a woman win the contest this year as this hasn’t been accomplished since the first Star is Born contest when Ninate Taib, then a 20 year old army corporal, came out of nowhere, and not only won the contest but launched a singing and acting career that has already catapulted her into Superstar ranking.
In fact, Ninate is the only contest inner who has really made something of herself in the music and entertainment world. The only other contestant who has embarked on a successful career as a result of “Chochav Nolad” (the Hebrew name for the songfest) was Shiri Maimon who placed second behind Ninate in the original competition.
Still, despite all the hoopla, Star is Born, Israel’s equivalent to American Idol, has been a welcomed diversion to what might otherwise be boring summertime television re-runs. The contest also shows that young people with talent can enter this event with the hope of perhaps making their entertainment career dreams come true.