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Charles Aznavour, a key figure in French music, continues to inspire admiration and wonder across borders and generations. His legacy, carried by dedicated personalities like Mireille Khanamirian and the Aznavour Foundation, keeps shining throughout the world. As part of the ongoing celebration of Aznavour’s legacy, the Embassy of Armenia in Lebanon, in partnership with UGAB Lebanon (the Armenian General Benevolent Union), is organizing a special screening of the film Aznavour by Charles on April 3rd. This intimate documentary, made from Aznavour’s personal archives, promises a fascinating dive into the world of the man behind the legend.

Mireille Khanamirian, who is the mission manager at the Embassy of Armenia to the Francophonie and an active member of UGAB-Lebanon, had the privilege of working closely with Charles Aznavour during the last six years of his life. As a true link between the artist and the Arab television press, she dedicated herself to promoting his work in the region, orchestrating interviews and documentaries on prestigious channels such as LBCI, Al Arabiya, and Al Mayadeen.

A Legacy Beyond Music

Aznavour’s legacy is not limited to his music. Throughout his life, the artist immortalized his loved ones, his tours, and the behind-the-scenes of his shows, capturing these moments with a camera given to him by Edith Piaf in 1948. Upon his death, no less than 70,000 photographs and numerous film reels were discovered, precious testimonies of a life rich in encounters and emotions. It is from these invaluable archives that Director Marc di Domenico, at Aznavour’s request, set out to make an intimate documentary. The project was then taken over by Mischa Aznavour, the artist’s eldest son. Aznavour by Charles (Le Regard de Charles) retraces with emotion and accuracy the journey of this legend, from his modest childhood to the height of his glory. A fascinating dive into the world of the man behind the icon.

But Aznavour’s work could not endure without the action of the foundation that bears his name. Created in 2016 by the artist and his son Nicolas, the Aznavour Foundation, based in Yerevan, Armenia, is dedicated to the singer’s memory and humanitarian missions. Its flagship project, the Aznavour Center, is a unique place that will house an interactive museum dedicated to the artist’s life and career, but also a cultural and educational platform dedicated to cinema, music and the French language. The result of a partnership with the French government, the Center will host the French Institute of Armenia, making this complex a true showcase of French culture. Visitors will be able to discover Aznavour’s journey through immersive technologies and an audio guide recorded by the artist himself.

Furthermore, the Foundation does not only preserve Aznavour’s memory, but also carries out solidarity actions, such as supporting displaced families after the 1988 earthquake in Gyumri, or awarding scholarships in partnership with the State College of Culture. A commitment in line with that of Aznavour, who never ceased to work for his country of origin.

Charles Aznavour and his son Nicolas Aznavour – Courtesy of the Aznavour Foundation

Aznavour Bil 3arabi: A Bridge Between Cultures

It is in this same spirit of sharing and openness that the Aznavour Bil 3arabi (Aznavour in Arabic) project was born, from a discussion between Charles Aznavour and Mireille Khanamirian during a dinner in Dubai in 2016. Surprised and delighted to see Emiratis attending his concert until the end, they discussed the idea of translating and adapting Aznavour’s songs into Arabic, to reach an Arabic-speaking audience and convey the artist’s philosophy. A dream that Aznavour had cherished for years, but which he had not been able to realize for lack of contacts. It was then that Mireille Khanamirian proposed to develop the project, by seeking competent people for the translation, arrangement and interpretation of the songs.

The objective was manifold: to allow an Arabic-speaking audience to discover Charles Aznavour’s universe and ideas on universal themes such as life, love, war, or the passage of time; to give an oriental color to the melodies; and to offer an opportunity to young Arab artists to perform alongside Aznavour and launch their careers. From 2016 to 2018, Mireille Khanamirian was actively invested in the search for artists to carry out this ambitious project. She received two recordings of Ma jeunesse and Toi et Moi translated into Arabic and performed by two big names in music, whose identity she keeps secret. Charles Aznavour had also listened to the oriental version of Comme ils disent by Yvonne El Hashem, thus confirming his willingness to be involved in Aznavour Bil 3arabi.

Despite Aznavour’s death in October 2018, the project continued and evolved. Yvonne El Hashem put Mireille Khanamirian in touch with Fadi and Pierre Abi-Saad from 8e Art (ALEPH), who accepted all the artistic conditions: participation of young singers, orientalized arrangements, tours in the Arab world with local artists, etc. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Aznavour Foundation and 8e Art to implement this project.

Aznavour Bil 3arabi perfectly illustrates Charles Aznavour’s desire to create bridges between cultures, by sharing his repertoire and his vision of the world with a new audience. It is also a magnificent tribute to his open-mindedness and his taste for sharing, which continue beyond his disappearance thanks to the commitment of passionate people like Mireille Khanamirian and the unfailing support of his Foundation.