x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Fans dance their farewells on beach

Tributes praise Jackson's influence on music all over the world as his 'Number Ones' album is tipped for the top of the British charts.

A man watches Michael Jackson perform in a video played at Virgin Records in Dubai.
A man watches Michael Jackson perform in a video played at Virgin Records in Dubai.

As the sun set behind the Burj al Arab last night, UAE fans of Michael Jackson swayed to his music in a tribute night on the beach at the Méridien Mina Seyahi in Dubai. Carima Jabri, 26, who said she had been crying non-stop since hearing the news, said: "Michael Jackson meant everything to me. I have the fondest childhood memories. I haven't been able to sleep since he died and all I've been doing is watching his DVDs over and over."

She was not the only one, to judge from the demand for Jackson's music at local outlets. Within hours of his death, stocks had sold out, leaving many customers eagerly awaiting the arrival of extra copies. In the UK, official music chart compilers said yesterday that the singer was almost certain to reach No 1 in the coming days with his Number Ones compilation album originally released in November 2003.

In Dubai, Tony Haddad, the multimedia manager of Virgin Megastores in Burjuman Mall, said that in 90 minutes the store had sold 10 copies of the album plus all its copies of Thriller and The Essential Michael Jackson. A handful of DVDS and several posters were also purchased as soon as the store opened on Friday morning. Yesterday Mr Haddad was expecting a delivery of 50 albums to fly off the shelves. "Everyone wants a copy of his album because now that he has died he will become even more of a legend," he said.

"We've already had 25 orders for his Essentials album and we haven't stopped playing it in store since we heard about his death on Friday morning." In the capital, the Virgin Megastores in Abu Dhabi Mall sold 25 albums and four DVDs. Severe Teralta, the music department manager, said that her customers were "in mourning". "Everyone is really sad," she said. "Of course musicians die all the time but we've never had this reaction before.

"When Pavarotti died two years ago it was not the same, but Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson; everyone loved him." Last night, meanwhile, fans gathering for the tribute event at the Méridien Mina Seyahi spoke of their feelings. Nadja Issa, 39, a choreographer who credits Jackson for both personal and professional inspiration, said his death had left "a huge impression" on her. She said that at the event she hoped to be able to dance some of his famous moves as a way of remembrance.

Vasko Ivanov, 27, a Dubai-based composer, said Jackson's death would be a huge loss to the music industry. "As a composer it is easier for me than most to see the influence [he] had on music all over the world. "About eight per cent of Justin Timberlake's work, for example, is directly taken from Jackson. The way he pitches his voice, the way he implements his melodies, the way he dances and even the dedication of the sound to the beats."

Mr Ivanov said that his colleagues and friends in the music industry in the UAE were all affected by Jackson's death. "I would consider myself a fan but not a fanatic," he said. "I greatly admired his professional work and I had collected some of his rare recordings." The most ironic thing about Jackson's death was the timing, Mr Ivanov added. The star had been due to perform 50 live concerts in a comeback tour called This Is It starting on July 13 in London's O2 arena.

"He would have knocked everyone out with his tour and new album. He'd been out of the studio for 10 years, so his hunger to create music would have grown immensely." Joe Hanna, 30, a dance teacher in Abu Dhabi, bought his ticket for Jackson's concert in London two months ago. He paid £132 (US$218, Dh800) for it. "I've been a fan all my life; I was raised with him," said Mr Hanna. "He was my sole inspiration to become a dance teacher and it was always my dream to see him perform live. I've never felt sad about someone dying before but now I feel there is something missing.

"He was an icon, the only one." aseaman@thenational.ae * Additional reporting: Nour Samaha