The5 interview

The Arab world’s answer to One Direction, talk fame, fans and dreams Discuss this article

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The5, the Middle East’s answer to One Direction, have just been working on a new single with some lucky fans. Like One Direction, they rose to fame on The X Factor, competing on the Arabic version of the show last year. And in another comparison to the British boy band, they didn’t technically win the show... or let that stop them.

One of the reasons they’ve become so big is their backgrounds – Ahmed Hassan hails from Egypt, Kazem Chamas from Lebanon and Adil Echbiy from Morocco. Said Karmouz and Mohamed Bouhezza aka BMD (the rapper of the group) are from Algeria – which makes their music unique. “We’re trying to do something new in the Middle East,” Hassan says. “It’s like international music, but with Arabic style. Everyone has their own idol and style of music, so it’s good to mix them.”

Since The X Factor ended, they’ve been wildly successful, with two No. 1 singles under their belts so far, and in March this year they won Best Arab Act at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, thanks to their army of fans, who call themselves Fivers. “It feels great to have won the award. We’re still new, and we won it in such a short time,” says Echbiy.

The5 have always been into music. Chamas comes from a musical family – his father and brother both play the oud and he’s been singing and performing on stage since he was three years old. Bouhezza started writing songs when he was young, but, says he was too shy to show anyone at first. “My friends encouraged me to keep going. It was like I had a message, and rap was the best way to express it,” he says.

Before The5, Karmouz and Bouhezza performed together, but the rest of the group were unaware of each other. They all auditioned for The X Factor separately, and ended up joining forces. “We were
no-one before The X Factor. No-one knew our names, but now we have so many followers and people want photos with us,” says Hassan. It was this that gave them the push to follow their dreams, which took them to Dubai in August.

At the beginning of the summer, they teamed up with skincare brand Clean & Clear to launch a competition for fans across the region to submit lyrics for their new single, SeeTheRealMe, in whatever format they wanted – written, recorded or in pictures. “The X Factor gave us the ability to show what we had, and now we’re trying to give our fans the chance to shine,” Karmouz explains.

Four winners were eventually chosen to join the band in Dubai for a writing camp. “We’re going to be writing together, creating the melody together, doing everything together. No-one else does that. You won’t find other artists meeting their fans and working with them,” says Bouhezza.

The band were blown away by the amount of entries sent in. “One girl tagged me in something online. She’d already written the lyrics and made a song,” says Echbiy. “I want another competition next year. It will be a lot easier making an album with the fans.”

The camp will also provide other opportunities for supporters, too. As well as the competition winners, others will be invited to the camp to work as photographers, make-up artists or to learn the business of music production. “There are a lot of talented young people in the Arab world but they just need that push,” Hassan says. “We’re giving them a hand.”

The song is not yet finished, but the band have a good idea of what it will be about. Despite Kazem’s admission that he likes writing songs about life, he says love songs are more popular. “I’m always receiving messages online saying, ‘please sing something romantic’,” Echbiy says. The band plan to release the single before the end of the year.

Having recently recorded their debut EP in Sweden, with a potential release date towards the end of summer, it looks like The5 are on the up and up. “We’re the number one boy band in the Arab world,” says Hassan. “But we want to be the number one musicians in the Arab world. Why not?” Enough said.

The5’s debut single Heya Kida El Haya is available on iTunes for QR2.99.

The band’s top six quotes

On Being an International Band
“We’ve performed in English before, and Said’s idol is Justin Bieber. Some of us speak French as well, so we’d like to do French songs. But we want to start step by step. We don’t want to shock our fans by suddenly singing everything in English or French.” - Ahmed Hassan

On Being Role Models
“We like to sing about life and motivation. Because our fans are young, we want to give them a good example. Especially because of problems in the Arab world. We want to tell them to live your life and be happy.”- Adil Echbiy

On Photographs
“The best thing in the world is to go somewhere and find your photo on things like bottles of moisturiser. We were at the mall the other day and saw it, and I was like, ‘It’s me!’ It’s so weird.” - Ahmed Hassan

On their fame
“At the beginning, we had normal lives, but not after The X Factor. I went to a mall in Morocco with BMD and they
had to close it down… Everyone recognised us…” - Adil Echbiy

On what makes their music unique
“Every one of us is from a different country and culture, so we all like different styles. Everyone has their own ideas. We’ve come up with something special.”  - Ahmed Hassan

By Dominic Beesley
Time Out Doha,

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