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American singer on 'Arabs Got Talent' falls just short

By Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
updated 2:59 AM EST, Sun December 8, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New: Singer "really happy" to make final three, praises Syrian winners
  • Jennifer Grout barely speaks Arabic but loves traditional Arabic music
  • Singer, 23, is from Massachusetts
  • Judges, audience praised her at Saturday's finals

(CNN) -- American Jennifer Grout fell just short of the top prize in the "Arabs Got Talent" competition after a remarkable run to the finals by a 23-year-old from Massachusetts who barely speaks Arabic.

Grout was among the final three contestants left standing on a Beirut stage Saturday night. She was eliminated only just before the end of the televised spectacle on the MBC network, when Syrian dance troup Sima was declared the winner.

"I'm really happy I was in the top three and it was such a good experience, but I'm so happy for Sima because they deserved it," Grout said.

Grout won over some shocked viewers in the Middle East earlier in the competition with renditions of classic Arab songs, rather than more Western-sounding music other contestants were performing.

The winning dancers incorporated Western moves in their performance.

Although some journalists in the Middle East had questioned the wisdom of allowing an American in the competition, audience members and even judges on Saturday night's show praised her for calling attention to traditional songs.

"Jennifer's achievement is something that's made me very happy," said Lebanese superstar singer Najwa Karam, one of the judges. "It shows music is universal. When it comes to the arts, there are no barriers between us and any other people in the world."

After the ceremony, members of the audience and some contestants approached Grout to take photos and talk with her.

Grout has said she dived into Arabic music three years ago after discovering it online. She previously had studied classical music and opera.

After college, she moved to Morocco, where she learned local Berber music and began performing in Marrakesh's Jemaa el Fnaa Square.

Asked about her future Saturday night, she said, "For now, I'm definitely going to go back to Morocco to see all my friends. And after that, who knows?"

CNN's Gul Tuysuz contributed reporting from Beirut; Deanna Hackney and David Simpson contributed from Atlanta.

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