Darío Moreno (3 April 1921 – 1 December 1968) was a Turkish polyglot singer, as well as an accomplished composer, lyricist and guitarist who attained fame and made a remarkable career centered in France which also included films, during the 1950s and the 1960s. He became famous with his 1961 song Brigitte Bardot.
His real name was David Arugete and he was born to a large Jewish family. He was orphaned in early childhood when his father, who worked in a train station in Aydın, was shot dead under tragic circumstances. He was placed in the Sephardic orphanage of İzmir (Nido De Guerfanos) by his mother and remained there until he was four.
After a primary education in the Jewish educational establishments of İzmir, he did many odd jobs during his early youth. But he has also put great effort into improving his education at the same time while working to make a living, and having started as an errand boy in the cabinet of one of the city’s prominent lawyers, he was in time raised to becoming a clerk in his office. In the evenings, he would study French in İzmir’s Central Library. With a guitar that had fallen into his hands by chance, he also learned, mainly on his own with occasional tutoring asked here and there, to master playing that instrument.
He started singing in the Bar Mitzva feasts as a secondary occupation. In his early twenties, he had already become a well-known singer in İzmir, and particularly among the Jewish community. During his military service in the Turkish Army, he was employed as a singer in officers’ quarters in various garrisons and became more focused on music.
His first truly professional musical performance started in his hometown right after his discharge, through connections established while under the arms. Since he had started making money thanks to music, he moved to the better-off Jewish quarter of Karataş to a house in a street leading to the historical building of Asansör, one of the city’s landmarks (and which means, literally, the “Elevator”, people taking an actual elevator to go to the higher part of the quarter, this part being separated by the coastal strait with a steep slope). This street is named Dario Moreno Sokağı (Dario Moreno Street) today in his memory.
A hyperactive personality, Darío Moreno died of a heart attack in a taxi while going to the airport in Istanbul on 1 December 1968. He was only 47. He was buried in Holon, Israel, by his mother Madam Roza.
Ya Mustafa is one of the most remembered of Moreno’s songs. It was very famous in the 1950s and early 1960s. The original version of this catchy song (having a Greek style music) and the identity of its composer are disputed. It appeared in one of the films of the Egyptian actor Ismail Yassin in the 1950s and in another Egyptian film of Sabah from the same era.
Dario Moreno performed it in the late 1950s. In Europe, the song became popular with the help of Bob Azzam (a Lebanese singer who was born in Egypt in 1925 and died in Monte Carlo 2004), who released it in 1960 in France with lyrics consisting of at least 3 languages: “Chérie je t’aime, chéri je t’adore – como la salsa del pomodoro” (Darling, I love you, darling, I adore you – like tomato sauce). Bruno Gigliotti, (Orlando) the brother of famous singer Dalida, also covered the song. This song, with its Greek style music and polyglotic lyrics, can be considered as a historical documentation of the cosmopolitan era in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. During that era, a large cosmopolitan polyglotic community, mainly Greeks, Jews and Italians, lived in the Egyptian city. A sizable portion lived in the Attareen district, where the events of the song take place.