x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Fast & Furious’s Don Omar talks about the late Paul Walker

The Puerto Rican singer Don Omar opens up about the death of his friend, Paul Walker, and his performance at the Dubai Music Awards later this year.

The singer and actor Don Omar. Erika Santelices / EPA
The singer and actor Don Omar. Erika Santelices / EPA

The Latin superstar Don Omar has opened up for the first time since the death of his friend and co-star Paul Walker in November last year.

The Puerto Rican singer, actor and producer starred in the fourth and fifth instalments of Fast & Furious – as well as contributed to their soundtracks – alongside Walker, an American actor who was killed when the Porsche Carrera GT he was riding in hit a tree in California.

Walker, 40, was due to start filming the seventh instalment of the movie franchise in Abu Dhabi with the rest of the cast in January. The cast is still due to shoot here, likely this spring.

A friend remembered

“Paul was a great friend, father, son,” says Omar. “He was, is, and will always be an overall amazing human being.”

Omar says life on set with Walker was always fun. And he claims he wouldn’t have finished his role in the series if it wasn’t for the actor’s ­intervention.

“I remember once I was about to quit the movie,” admits Omar, who, as a singer, was finding the transition to acting difficult. “It was Paul who told me to continue. I won’t forget that. He looked at me and said: ‘Don, the real things in life are those that we work for. We work for the family and we work to create a memorable name for ourselves. Keep up the good work.’ He was such a gentleman.”

Although an established actor, Walker was best known for his role as Brian O’Conner in the series. Omar himself is famous for his many crossover hits including Danza Kuduro, which featured in Fast Five, and for his role as Rico Santos in the franchise.

Musical face-off

Omar will head to the emirate for the second Dubai International Music Awards (DIMA) in November this year. In December, he went head-to-head against his fellow Puerto Rican singer Daddy Yankee in the first episode of The Road to DIMA, a televised reality series on Fox. Although Daddy Yankee won that battle, with 15,242 votes to Omar’s 12,194, Omar agreed to perform at the DIMA, too. (Normally only the winner of each face-off performs at the show.)

Omar is looking forward to visiting Dubai.

“I think it is one of the most, if not the most, spectacular places in the world,” he said. “I’ve never been but I cannot wait to see it all for myself. I’m really excited about performing there and will embrace the opportunity to bring my music to such an amazing awards show.”

A crossover star

Omar became one of first international superstars in reggaeton, a genre with roots in Latin and Caribbean music, thanks to his work in the early-2000s with Luny Tunes, but even more so thanks to Reggaeton Latino, his 2005 anthem that became one of the style’s first genuine crossover hits.

Born William Omar Landrón in Villa Palmeras, Puerto Rico, Omar was heavily involved in the church and even became a pastor. He eventually left the church to pursue a career in music. It was his debut album, The Last Don in 2003, that became a landmark for the reggaeton movement.

New collaborations

Omar has just finished what he calls a new “concept album” called Don Omar: Hecho En Puerto Rico.

“It’s a new combination of both CD and DVD because it’s like a Broadway-type show, that I wrote myself,” he says. “I’m very proud of it and the reviews are good.”

The Road to DIMA has since featured the Belgium artist Stromae, best known for his song Alors on Danse, and the French Band Sexion D’Assaut. There is a new battle every month until September, with eight other head-to-head battles, featuring 16 international artists, in the Fox series.

International battle to perform in Dubai

Road to DIMA is broadcast in the UAE on Fox 11 times daily. The current battle is the Russian leg between the superstars Timati and Dima Bilan. Fans can vote for their favourite at anytime by calling 00 882 169 00 169. The winner for February will be announced next week. Next month’s battle, which takes us to South Korea, features “two of the biggest artists in the world who cannot be revealed just yet”. For more information, visit dimawards.com

artslife@thenational.ae