That Jennifer Grout, a white, 23-year-old classically trained singer from Cambridge, Massachusetts, might win a Got Talent competition is not really news. That she might win the Arab world's version of the popular talent show is.
Grout, who barely speaks Arabic, took the show's judges by surprise when she showed up on stage to sing "Baeed Annak" (Away from You) by iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum.
But the judges were practically floored when her performance was not only capable, but actually impressive.
"You don't speak a word of Arabic, yet you sing better than some Arab singers!" judge Najwa Karam, a Lebanese singer, told Grout. "We have for so long imitated the West, and this the first time that a person who has no whatsoever link to the Arab world, an American girl who does not speak Arabic, sings Arabic songs!"
Thus Grout became the first non-Arab to advance to the show's finals.
Born to musicians, Grout was trained to sing in a variety of languages under the tutelage of McGill University voice teacher Thérèse Sevadjian.
She first fell in love with Arab music three years ago, when she happened across an article about Lebanese diva Fairouz.
Learning how to play the oud, Grout began performing Arabic songs in Montreal, and later moved to Morocco in order to be closer to her music scene.
She recorded two CDs with local musicians and was ultimately encouraged to try out for Arabs Got Talent — now in its third season.
The rest is literally history.
Because of the unique accent she's developed over the years, some have accused Grout of faking her American biography.
"There's lots of rumours that I'm not actually American," she told The Guardian. "I'm very flattered by that because it means I'm doing something that is...unbelievable."
For the record, Grout's life story has been confirmed — by her American parents.
"She sings from the heart," her dad told ABC News. "She loves the Arab music. She loves the rhythm, she loves the scales, the intonation. It's just incredible to hear it."
[H/T: The Wire]