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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Dalida’s flame continues to burn bright

Dalidas’s life to be celebrated in special evening by popular Dubai French restaurant

French singer Dalida performs on January 16, 1974 at L'Olympia music hall in Paris, France. AP
French singer Dalida performs on January 16, 1974 at L'Olympia music hall in Paris, France. AP

One of the Arab world’s first international superstars will be celebrated in Parisian style on Tuesday.

The classy Dubai French eatery Bistrot Bagatelle will be paying homage to the late Dalida in a special edition of their gastro-music weekly night Le Mardi C’est Permis.

On the menu will include French classics such as Tartare de Boeuf, Salad Landaise, Gnocchi à la Parisienne, and Loup de Mer.

As well selections from the menu, the crowd will be serenaded by French singer, Anne, who will be flying in from PaRIS to belt out Dalida favorites including Paroles paroles, Parle, plus bas and J’attendrai.

Despite passing away thirty years ago, Anne says Dalida remains a part of French popular culture. She points to the recent biopic, with Italian actress Sveva Alviti in the lead role and an occasional television tributes for keeping the flame alive.

“She is still very popular and famous in France and there are talent shows such as Star Academy and The Voice that still do Dalida songs,” she says.

“There is also a street under her name in Paris called Place Dalida, which is in her former neighborhood and houses a bronze bust of her. It shows how the impact that she left on France and the French.

Born in 1933 and raised in Cairo to parents who immigrated from Italy, Dalida was exposed to music from a young age, often joining her father to the Cairo Opera House where he was the in-house orchestra’s first violinist.

With her mother a gifted seamstress, Dalida ventured into fashion world and by the age of 20 won the Miss Egypt pageant.

The popularity resulted in her move to music with her first hit being 1956’s Bambino, her orchestral cover of the Neapolitan folk song Guaglione.

She established as bona fide music star the following year with Gondolier, a French classic which married Dalida’s untrained yet exotically husky voice with baroque strings and a Waltz rhythm.

With her mum a big Dalida fan, Anne says her songs on constant rotation in the household.

Dalida’s fame extended beyond Europe with performances in New York City’s Carnegie Hall and South America.

According to popular fan-site Dalida Forever, the singer performed three dates in Abu Dhabi in March 1981.

Her success with music was not tragically not reflected in her personal life. Dalida was also renowned for her string of turbulent relationship which eventually contributed to her retiring from performance in 1983 and eventually taking her own life four years later.

“I grew up on her songs and memorized by heart,” she says.

“As I grew up, I researched more about her life and the music and it is from there that my love for her music really grow.”

Bistrot Bagatelle’s music man DJ Starks, who will be accompanying Anne, recalls a similar childhood in France where Dalida’s music was always played.

The DJ credits Dalida for injecting small facets of Arab culture to France’s mainstream.

“Her voice is unique. You can recognize all her origins in her voice – that Arabic, Italian and French – and she brought a lot when it comes to introducing the Arabic music style to France,” he says.

“For example after her (1977 song) Salama Ya Salama, French people know that phrase because of Dalida and they sing it.”

Anne says it was the rawness of her voice that pulls people in.

“She had a typical voice, that slight mix of Arabic, Italian and French but it could bring joy, happiness, sadness or drama,” she says.

“Her songs, I find, can make you cry, dance and feel so many emotions at once.”

Starks says Le Mardi C’est Permis won’t be a club night, instead it is more “a fine dining restaurant with music.”

“Dalida incarnates love, romance, glamour and we want accompany that with some tracks which have the ability to make you feel like dancing at the end of your dinner.”

Le Mardi C’est Permis is at Bistrot Bagatelle tonight at The Fairmont Hotel Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. 8pm till late. For details email reservation@bistrotbagatelledubai.com