Wibsey warbler wows Will.i.am
Twenty-one-year-old Bradford-born singer, Faheem Ashraf, had the judges’ chairs spinning around faster than a vinyl record player set to the rotational speed of 78 RPM on Saturday night.
Dressed in double denim, a straw trilby and sparkling ear-rings that matched the twinkle in his eye, Faheem looked the part as he took to the stage on BBC1’s ‘The Voice’. But did he have the voice to match the vision?
The four judges – Will.i.am, Boy George, Paloma Faith and Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson- were blind to his ‘pop perfect’ presentation as they faced the other way in their red thrones, and it was purely down to Faheem’s pitch-perfect performance that had two of them fighting to be his coach.
As the mellifluous notes of ‘Marvin Gaye’ – by Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor – played out into the studio during his audition, it only took two seconds for Will.i.am to boing his beeper.
The superstar judge, who used to sing in the Black Eyed Peas, said to Faheem: “You have some freakin’ awesome tones. I only needed to hear the first three words and I was like ‘bam!’ You’re like John Legend, you have that magic.”
Ricky Wilson, who also turned – using his foot to fly around (due to his rock and roll nature) – said: “It usually takes an extraordinary male voice for me, and you have that. I’m fighting for this.”
In the end, Faheem went with Will.i.am. He told the Asian Express: “I didn’t pick fellow Yorkshire-man Ricky because from watching the show for years, I have always wanted to work with Will because he has experience of the music genre that I fall under.
“When Will mentioned John Legend I was like, ‘Wow, that’s such a big comparison!’ and that kind of quality is where I want to be at, and falls exactly under the genre that I want to be developing in.”
Faheem continued: “I’ve not slept much for the past few days since my performance. It’s been a bit mental.
“I’ve been singing ever since I can remember, probably since I was eight-years-old. It wasn’t until I was 14 though, when my mum overheard me and started encouraging me, that I did something with it. She gave me the courage and confidence that I needed to sing publically.”
Faheem has been raised in a very musical family. He said: “My grandad was a singer and my mum always wanted to be a singer, so I’ve grown up listening to my mum sing all the time. Then she had my older sister and she had to give up the dream.
“I don’t sing like anyone in my family, my voice is really unique to me. I have been asked by other journalists, ‘you don’t sound like an Asian singer, have you done that on purpose?’ and to that I’ve said, ‘not at all, it’s just the way my voice has developed’. It’s just really strange.”
Faheem picked the song, ‘Marvin Gaye’ because his voice usually suits piano ballads and big, expansive songs.
He continued: “I had a meeting with the production team and they wanted me to sing a more current song, rather than singing, say, an old Stevie Wonder song.
“They wanted me to really push myself to do something that I wouldn’t usually do and said that I didn’t realise what I could do with my voice, that I thought I could only sing in one way. It was the production team who pushed me to be more of an artist.
“I knew it was a risk because there are a lot of people out there that don’t like the song because it’s been played so many times. All the feedback that I’ve had has been amazing though, so I’m glad that I did it.
“I write my own material too, I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid. I’ve got a music video coming out soon, over the next four weeks hopefully. It’s time to start pumping my own music out there now.”
Long live the dream, Faheem.