OBITUARY: When ‘Frank Sinatra of France’ serenaded Dubai in four languages

Ehtesham Shahid
Ehtesham Shahid - Al Arabiya English
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It is difficult not to love a 91-year-old man performing live on stage. Thats exactly what maestro Charles Aznavour did when he serenaded Dubai in February of 2016.

The French-Armenian singer-songwriter, Charles Aznavour, popularly known as France’s Frank Sinatra, spread the sheer joy of music transcending geographical, cultural and language barriers.

Not surprisingly, Aznavour’s concert toggled between Italian, Spanish, Russian and of course a lot of French. “You better have translators next to you,” he joked about it.

Nonethelesss, the packed house lapped it all up, singing along, cheering aloud, and some of them even shedding tears at the end. The crescendo was reached with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

It all began with a delayed start though, and some seriously inebriated patrons as well. But it was all worth it.

As expected, Francophones turned up in large numbers, some flying in from neighboring countries. A young African entrepreneur said he has waited for years for Aznavour to come to Dubai. Aznavour’s Armenian origin had its own loyalties represented in the crowd.

In the year 1988, Aznavour was named in a CNN and Time Online poll as the entertainer of the century, beating Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.

The choice of songs deemed fit for the occasion. From Les Émigrants to Le voyage, they all formed one interesting mix. The singer ended the concert with Emmenez Moi (take me).

Twice in the evening he had referred to the struggle of immigrants, yet ramained apolitical, not easy for someone of his age who has seen the world change, yet remain the same.

As one would expect, social media was buzzing with references to the nonagenarian, as much for his spirit as his voice. Among the most happening was #aznavourgroupies.

Fans continued to post pictures and videos from the venue and thereafter. There are reasons why Charles Aznavour has sold more than 100 million records, written over 1,200 songs, sung in eight languages, and appeared in more than 80 films. Glimpses of all that were on display at the concert.

The Charles Aznavour show was truly a Dubai Classic. Today, when the world mourns his death, it is also time to honor his legacy. Long live Charles Aznavour.

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