Mawi is the winner of the third season of the local Akademi Fantasia talent show. The reason he stands out among the winner alumni is because he has this huge following of cult-like fans that bring to mind the fanaticism of Clay Aiken’s fans. Having portrayed himself as a pious young Muslim from a humble background in a cleverly-calculated rags-to-riches tale, he attracts fans young and old ready to do his every bidding. Because of this, I just have to purchase this CD, a collection of his performances during the show, to see for myself what the hype is about. By the way, kudos to Maestro for striking while the iron is hot and pushing out this cheaply-produced yet not cheaply priced CD so soon after the finale. Poor Zahid, the now forgotten winner of the second season, must be wondering what Mawi has that he doesn’t to have his CD come out so long after his season ended that he was already irrelevant by the time it was released.
All I can say after listening to this CD is: bloody horror of all horrors, can Mawi actually sing? What are his fans listening to? Perhaps it’s the result of cheap studio productions but Mawi comes off like gurgling instead of singing in Best of Mawi World. Since the tracks are arranged in a chronological order from his first performance to his final performance at the finale, I listen hard to look for any sign that Mawi has improved. Okay, there is a slight improvement in the sense that by the finale he can at least perform a song about halfway in tune but… seriously!
This guy has no range so for a lot of time he is pushing his voice out of his range, sounding like a howling cat in the alley, or he is trying but failing to control his voice as he reaches too low. When he’s singing in his normal register, he sounds like his words are coming out from his nostrils. Still, the best songs are those where Mawi isn’t required to stretch his voice, like Pupus. I still shudder from listening to his horrific butchery of Los Lobos’s Beautiful Maria – I’m shocked that my nose doesn’t start bleeding as I tremble throughout the song. Kekasih Awal Dan Akhir is especially brutal on the ears.
The songs by themselves aren’t bad, mind you. Seroja would have been a beautiful song if someone else can do justice to it. Oh Fatimah is another nice song ruined by the fact that Mawi can’t do justice to the song at all. Ironically, the songs here, with their obvious and even clichéd Malay and Arabic overtones, are cleverly calculated to add to Mawi’s appeal as a young pious Muslim musical evangelist. How unfortunate that the person that the songs are given to has a hard time remaining in tune or staying in key. I suppose that his stage charisma must far outweigh his singing abilities to command such devotion from his legions of fans, because Mawi, at the end of the day, can’t sing to save his own life. I want my money back.