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Summary: Reality TV has dominated our screens over recent years, with talent shows often taking the spotlight. Audiences in their millions are gripped by the story which sees 'regular Joes' transform into singing sensations.

Reality TV has dominated our screens over recent years, with talent shows often taking the spotlight. Audiences in their millions are gripped by the story which sees 'regular Joes' transform into singing sensations.

This rise in TV talent shows seems to have awoken the inner diva in many and on December 8, 2012, 16 wannabes will be battling it out over the mic at Dubai Modern High School, in a bid to take home a hefty cash prize in 'Best of the Best' 2012.

Showcasing the voices of thousands of undiscovered talent across the UAE, the concept -- brought about in 2003 by Global Education Management System (GEMS) -- is the perfect platform for young people with a passion for singing.

Kevin Oliver, Group Cultural Coordinator for GEMS and Director of the show, explained how it all came about: "GEMS always looks for ways of giving students a chance to express themselves, so in 2003 we started this competition."

With the open auditions kick-started in early October, hopefuls from across the UAE turned up in their thousands in a bid to wow the judges, and there was an array of vocal styles on show from your classic tenor to your hardcore rocker.

Tipped to be even bigger and better than before, 'Best of the Best' is now in its fifth season and with the final showdown just days away, Khaleej Times reporter caught up with some of the finalists, including Callum Bell, 12, from Jumeirah College.

The singer, who recently competed in 'Kids Got Talent' at Festival City, said he was quietly confident about reaching the finals: "I love singing and I tried really hard, so I wasn't shocked when I got through."

The ambitious 12-year-old has chosen Beyonce's 'Listen' as his final song and feels his diverse voice helped him pip others to the post: "I don't stick to one avenue when it comes to singing. I can sing classical, rock, pop, even country."

With the finals divided into two sections, singers aged between nine and 12 will make up the 'Junior' category, with the 'Senior' section comprising 13- to 18-year-olds.

Vocal coaches and heads of music institutes will be just some of those sitting on the all important judging panel and with such fierce competition taking to the stage, the pressure won't just lie on the shoulders of the performers alone.

Shenali Perera, 12, from Westminster School Dubai, is one of the youngest female vocalists in the competition and in homage to her idol -- the late Whitney Houston -- Shenali will be singing her own rendition of 'I will always love you'. The passionate youngster says singing is her most "favourite thing in the world" and win or lose, she will come out with a smile on her face. When asked who she felt her biggest competitor was, she picked fellow Westminster student Stefanie Clare, 15. "I just love her voice. But I don't see anyone as competition really, I just feel privileged to be singing with such great talent."

With Callum and Shenali making up two of the eight singers going head to head in the 'Junior' competition, all eyes will be on the Dh10,000 prize as well as the coveted 'Best of the Best' 2012 title.

Leander Dias, 17, from Dubai Modern High School will be competing in the 'Senior' category, which sees the winner bag a tidy Dh15,000 sum. "I auditioned a few times before, but the furthest I got was the semi-finals."

With musical theatre his forte, Leander said he would never audition for the likes of 'X Factor' because of Simon Cowell's obvious dislike for that particular genre. "One of Simon's many complaints are 'you sing like someone on Broadway'. This is my style, so I know I wouldn't get his vote."

As the sole male finalist in his category, Leander could have the edge on his female competitors, with his distinct male tones setting him apart from the rest, but the modest 17-year-old didn't want to count his chickens just yet, saying that everyone competing was on an even keel.

With the finals drawing closer and preparations under way, 'Best of the Best' 2012 is sure to be an awe-inspiring show for music lovers across the UAE. With the adrenalin pumping and such diverse talent taking to the stage, it will be interesting to see who takes the spotlight.

kelly@khaleejtimes.com

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Dec 4, 2012
Words:778
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