Monday, July 04, 2005

mawi mania ?

COVER STORY: Mavi Mania Dennis Chua July 3:
The nasyid lover brings a refreshing change to Akademi Fantasia, says Dennis Chua
“MAWI! Mawi! Mawi!” is the definitive rallying cry in the current Akademi Fantasia which is proving to be infectious.If you are unfamiliar with this, welcome to the “world” of Mawi, otherwise known as Asmawi Ani, for eversince the student appeared in Akademi Fantasia Season 3 with his signature favourite word, “world”, the reality show has never been the same.No candidate in the past two shows has elicited so much excitement and attention as this tall, slender, crew-cut Johorean. Perhaps it is his simple, unassuming, boy-next-door looks or the fact that he was once a qari (Quran-reading contestant) that earned him this unique appeal. Whatever it is, Mawi is a hit and is here to stay.Just imagine this. When he failed to make the cut at the Prelude Concert, the official AF3 website was flooded with messages demanding his admission via the wildcard. And when this was done at the end of the first weekly concert, the 24-year-old “Kulai boy” almost instantly led the pack by securing the most SMS votes.Each time Mawi steps on stage on Saturday night, Stadium Melawati in Shah Alam comes alive with screaming fans. Saturday before last, was a case in point and in order to save the best for last, organisers had to put him at the end. The crowd adulation was so strong that judges seemed to have made extra effort in being careful with their remarks.If in the past, fans began cheering for their favourites only after two or three concerts, in the case of Mawi, they have even proclaimed him the winner from the start. He is now leading at between 20 to 30 per cent in votes. His only serious contender is Sabahan Felix Agus.At the moment, both men remain at the top, and each time the weekly concert begins, Mawi’s votes are the highest.Host Aznil Nawawi, with his usual in-your-face sense of humour, said that Mawi’s fans’ banners were the only ones not removed from the concert venue. The show even went to the extent of coming up with a gimmick to “illustrate” Mawi’s popularity when it showed a segment of Astro news featuring the latest craze in the fashion market – Tudung Mawi – after this lad confided that he liked women who wear the tudung.Watching the “footage” together with the crowd, Mawi, oblivious to the teasing, was more eager to get on with the show. And what a show! The boy who made his debut singing nasyid, the qari with supposedly two left legs, was suddenly gyrating to an Arab number. The crowd went wild.Whether he is conscious of it or not, Mawi seems to appeal to both the old and young alike. Young women see husband material in him and parents, a potential son-in-law.The soft-spoken young man with a soulful voice and a great love of nasyid comes from a poor family of Felda settlers. His revelation in an interview, that he played sepak takraw, liked fried rice and teh O were more proof of his humble background. He said that his favourite film stars are Jalaluddin Hassan and M. Rajoli, while Yasin and Waheeda are his favourite singers. Being a Jamal Abdillah fan, he has sung Jamal’s songs twice during the weekly concerts.The AF3 English language teacher and student adviser, Fatimah Abu Bakar agreed that Mawi’s popularity has been “nothing short of phenomenal”.“We picked him during the Johor Baru AF3 audition, but little did we realise his mass appeal,” said Fatimah.Fatimah said that he feels great pressure to deliver to his frenzied fans, and that he least expected to be so popular in so short a time.“He has been very touched by their support. He does not understand it all, and he feels he must do his best every week.”Fatimah said that she saw in Mawi a natural leader and abang (elder brother) to the younger AF3 students.“He can be very serious, and he reprimands those who joke around too much, but never in a harsh manner.“He is mature and caring, and gets along very well with his fellow students. They have great respect for him, too.”She said that he was able to strike a healthy balance between religious piety and an embrace of Westernisation.In a sense, he appears to be “Islam Hadhari In Music” personified. Will the “Mawi phenomenon” last until the final weekly concert and beyond?Perhaps, because four weekly concerts have passed, and his position is still number one in the vote tally.However, Aznil has the final word on this, that there are many kejutan (surprises) in AF and fans can never be sure what to expect the next day.

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