Y Magazine

Champs of camps: Migrant workers share their love for music

Hundreds of migrant workers auditioned in a music contest and 20 of them went onstage to belt out ever-green melodies. Dil ki Awaz organisers share with Y how the labourers’ love for music stunned the crowd



At some point of our lives, most of us may have dreamed of going onstage and singing our favourite songs to a packed house that, at the end of the rendition, received it with a standing ovation.

When it comes to music, there is no class difference. The line defining and dividing the classes and the masses thins out and everyone is on the same wavelength.

In the month of January such a dream came true for hundreds of migrant workers in Oman. They got an opportunity to express their talent, they were presented with a platform to showcase their skills and they were greeted with rounds of applause by an appreciative gathering. And, in the end, the best of them walked back to their camps, with applause ringing in their ears and awards, cash and kind, firmly in their hands, thanks to Dil ki Awaz.

The first edition of Dil ki Awaz (voice of heart), a musical talent hunt, visited labour camps in Oman to audition 192 participants.

“Over a period of two months starting January 15 we had over 700 workers participating in the contest through the three phases of selection leading to the grand finale of Dil ki Awaaz in Muscat,” said Ashwin Gedam, Vice President of Global Marketing, Xpress Money.

Supported by Xpress Money’s CSR platform, H.O.P.E., the competition reached out to 45 labour camps connecting with 90,000 people over the last two months.

The grand finale was conducted in the presence of Indian Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, HE Murad Ali Hooti from Majlis Al Shuraa, Sudhesh Giriyan, COO of Xpress Money, and other dignitaries.

Excerpts from an interview with Ashwin Gedam:

How many workers participated in the contest?

During the first round wherein we invited voice samples over WhatsApp from potential candidates, we received 743 entries, from which we shortlisted 192 who then went on to participate in individual contests conducted at the labour camps.

The second phase lasted for 40 days with 38 rounds of audition that ended on March 10.  Judges assigned by Xpress Money shortlisted 20 finalists from the labour camp round who then took part in the grand finale on March 23.”

What were the most popular songs among the contestants?

The finalists were from four nationalities – India, Bangladesh, Oman and Pakistan who predominantly sung Hindi (Bolllywood songs) though there were a few songs sung in regional languages as well. For instance, the first runner-up was from Kerala who sung the popular Tamil song ‘Kanne Kalaimane’.

Across the selection process, particularly in the first and second phases of selection, contestants sung Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali songs. Old Bollywood songs seemed to be the favourite of most of the contestants. Most of the songs chosen by the contestants were the ones sung by Kishore Kumar, Kumar Sanu and Mohammed Rafi. 

What happened to the winners? Did they get to perform later to a different audience?

We are confident that the winners as well as participants of Dil ki Awaaz will pursue their musical enthusiasm further and the recognition of their talent will embolden them to take part in public performances. Dil Ki Awaaz was a new experience for them in testing their mettle. It was indeed amazing to meet so many migrant workers who are such talented singers, hidden gems indeed! It was also a first-of-its-kind platform given to migrant workers in Oman.

We intend to invite the winners and maybe the other participants as well to perform at certain large-scale events hosted by Xpress Money, not only in Oman but in other GCC countries as well. 

Were workers from Muscat only or all governorates?

Dil Ki Awaaz was conducted in labour camps all across Oman, including Salalah and Ibri. We wanted this platform to reach as many people as possible and, therefore, left no stone unturned to reach migrants even in the remotest of places in Oman.

What were the gifts?

The winner of Dil ki Awaaz grand finale took home a cash prize of RO1,000. The first runner-up won RO750 and second runner-up RO500. All the other 17 finalists were given RO50 each, apart from certificates and mementos.