BEIRUT: Jennifer Grout, the 23-year-old American who stunned TV audiences last fall for her spot-on renditions of Arabic classics on “Arabs Got Talent – Season 3,” will give her first concert performance in Beirut Friday evening at the annual fundraising fete for hospice care providers SANAD.
SANAD’s Gala Dinner will take place Friday evening at the Hilton Beirut Metropolitan Palace in Sin al-Fil. This year’s theme is “a night of nostalgic Tarab,” a term used to describe classical Arabic music and that relates to the enchantment or ecstasy the singer and listener enter during performance. It’s a fitting theme for an organization whose mission is to lessen the pains and trauma of terminal illness.
SANAD is a local non-governmental organization and one of the country’s few advocates for hospice services, an area of health care that seeks to alleviate the physical and psychological pain of dying. The organization provides support for patients and their caregivers to manage medical complications at the end of life, regardless of nationality.
“I think it’s a great charity and I’m happy to be contributing,” Grout told The Daily Star. Friday’s performance will include some of Grout’s personal favorites, songs from classic Arabic singers such as Ashfahan and Umm Kulthoum. She’ll also cover pieces by Souad Mohammad and Mohammad Abdel-Wahab. SANAD will also host Lebanese musician Afif Merheg, a singer and oud player, and the country’s prolific violin soloist Vanessa Nasser.
Grout, who placed second in the finals of Arabs Got Talent in December, made headlines in the region and back home in the U.S. for her unprecedented appearance on a reality show that until then had attracted only Arab performers. Audiences and judges were further astounded by her ability to play oud and replicate the difficult and technically nuanced songs of iconic singers such as Umm Kulthum, particularly because she appeared to speak no Arabic.
While talking to The Daily Star, Grout, who moved to Marrakech after graduating from university, admitted that she actually does speak the Moroccan dialect: “Some people think that I don’t speak it. I didn’t speak on the show because people won’t understand because people don’t understand Moroccan dialect.”
Grout is spending around three months in Beirut as part of her appearance on another MBC music competition “Shaklak Mish Gharib,” where contenders impersonate famous singers. So far, she has impersonated Majida al-Roumi and Celine Dion.
Grout won’t be the only celebrity from Arabs Got Talent to appear Friday night. Ali Jaber, MBC TV personality and a judge on the reality series, is SANAD’s public ambassador. Jaber said it was vital for regional figures like him and starlets like Grout, to throw their weight behind important causes.
“We should encourage public personalities to use this measure of esteem for the public good,” he said.
Rallying support for hospice care, a rather morbid cause, can be a difficult undertaking, Jaber said.
“There are things that are fashionable and a la mode and there are things that are much more important but they’re not sexy enough and they’re too morbid to think about,” Jaber said. “I think SANAD is one of those unfortunate organizations.”
“As far as help is concerned, they get the short end of the stick; they’re always the underdog. But I think what they do is really important.”– B. S.
Tickets to the gala, including dinner, cost $150 per plate. To book, please call 79-167-999 or go to sanadhospice.org.