Marcel Khalife (مرسيل خليفة) is a singer, composer and oud player. From 1970 to 1975, he taught at the conservatory in Beirut. In 1976, he created Al Mayadeen Ensemble and became famous all over the world for songs like Ummi (My Mother), Rita w'al-Bundaqiya (Rita and the Rifle) and Jawaz al-Safar (Passport), based on Mahmoud Darwish's poetry.
In 1999 he was granted the Palestine Award for Music. In turn, he contributed the financial portion of the award to the National Conservatory of Music at Birzeit University in Palestine. In 2005, Khalife was named UNESCO Artist for Peace. He lives in Paris, France.
One son, Bachar Khalife, is also an accomplished oud player and percussionist; the other, Rami Khalife , is a virtuoso pianist who graduated from the Juilliard School.
Marcel Khalife was born in 1950 in Amchit, a small coastal village north of Beirut. His grandfather was a flutist, and a fisherman. He lived among fishermen, peasants and Gypsies, and confesses a double influence:
Then I used to go to church and listen to Christian music, and also to Islamic recitations of the Qur'an. In Lebanon we have a marriage of Islamic and Christian culture. That really helped to form my musical awareness.
His first lessons in music was with a retired military man, a teacher in his village, Hanna Karam, who advised the parents of the young boy to let him continue learning music. His mother died of cancer when he was 16 years old. He studied the oud at the National Academy of Music in Beirut and contributed to the expansion of the possibilities of the oud.
From 1970 to 1975, he taught at the conservatory in Beirut and other local institutions and toured the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the United States giving solo performances on the oud. In Beirut, he discovered the situation of the Palestinians:
When I was at the conservatory in Beirut, I used to pass by the Palestinian refugee camps. I wondered why these people were living in these houses made of corrugated metal, and what the circumstances were which found them living in this kind of poverty. Some Lebanese families used to live there, too, mind you. I decided I wanted to learn more about the Palestinians, and learn how they lost their lands, lost their homes and their rights in Palestine. I became a supporter because their cause was a just one. Until now, I never hesitate to do anything at all in order to show my support for this great cause.
In 1972, Marcel Khalife created a musical group in his native village with the goal of reviving its musical heritage and Arabic choral singing. The first performances took place in Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war in 1975. During the war, he risked his life in bombed out concert halls.
Since I was born, I've felt I had a rebel's soul within me. I rejected things that might be inherited, but that were wrong.
I connected my artistic project with the fatherland, with life, society, and the people,
My music is for the service of humanity, and is intended to present a serious and sincere work for those tormented in this destructive war. My music was a sort of balm for those wounds.
In 1983, Paredon Records, now Smithsonian Folkways, released Promises of the Storm, a small collection of protest songs and political ballads.
Al Mayadeen ensemble
His work combines traditional Arabic music with Western elements like the piano. Mainly, Marcel Khalife uses modern Arab poetry (like Mahmoud Darwish) and muwashahat (music of Al-Andalus). He composes and sings the poetry of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, songs on nationalism and revolution.
1976 saw the birth of Al Mayadeen Ensemble. Al-mayadeen is the plural of maydan, which can mean both battlefield and village square, the site of festive events, weddings, song and dance. Enriched by the previous ensemble’s musical experiences, Al Mayadeen’s notoriety went well beyond Lebanon, performing the songs Umi (My Mother), Rita w'al-Bundaqiya (Rita and the Rifle) and Jawaz al-Safr (Passport), based on Darwish's poetry. The band performed in Arab countries, Europe, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, and Japan.
Marcel Khalife has been invited several times to festivals of international fame such as: Baalbeck, Beit Eddine (Lebanon),Antakya(Antakia), Carthage, El Hammamat (Tunisia), Timgad (Algeria), Jarash (Jordan), Arles (France), Krems, Linz (Austria), Bremen (Germany), ReOrient (Sweden), Pavia (Italy), World Music Festival in San Francisco, New York, Cleveland (U.S.). He performed in many prestigious halls at the Place des Arts in Montreal, Symphony Space and Merkin Concert in New York, the "Kennedy Center" in Washington, D.C., Berklee Theatre and New England Conservatory in Boston, Royal Festival Hall, and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London,UNESCO Palace of Beirut, Cairo Opera House (Egypt).
His recent works consist mainly of instrumental works like Arabian Concerto, The Symphony of Return, Chants of the East, as well as the Concerto Al-Andalus, Suite for Oud and Orchestra, as well as a piece called Sharq. In Arabic, the word 'sharq' means 'East' or 'Orient', and the piece is a musical case-history or a musical memoir of the Arabic musical legacy that was written by Khalife for 100 choral singers and 100 musicians. Additional recent works include Mouda'aba (Caress), Diwan Al Oud, Jadal Oud duo, Oud Quartet, Al Samaa in the traditional Arabic forms and Taqasim, a duo for oud and double bass. Marcel Khalife’s compositions has been performed by several orchestras, notably the Kiev Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of Boulogne Billancourt Orchestra, The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the city of Tunis, the Qatar Philarmonic Orchestra and the Absolute Ensemble. Lorin Maazel recently conducted Khalife's orchestral works.
I realize myself more in music than in singing. This tendency is evident in several of my works, the last of which was the 'Oud Concerto,
When the text is absent, I find myself more comfortable in composing music, although this need not suggest that I am ignoring the song, which is essential to me. Rather, my real interest lies in musical composition. This was present in early compositions like Rita, Aaras (Weddings) and Tusbahouna ala Watan (Ode to Homeland). Each of these was a musical composition and not just music written for songs. In these works, whenever the lyrics stop the music continues; and whenever I feel the lyrics are incomplete, they are completed by music.
In 2005, Marcel Khalife told the media that his music and songs have been banned in Tunisia by the state-controlled radio and TV stations. He might have angered the Tunisian authorities during a concert in Carthage in August when he dedicated one of his songs to Arabs imprisoned in Israel and Arab countries. He also expressed support for the rights of political activists who went on hunger strike before and during the World Summit on Information Society in Tunis in November 2005.
In July 2009, Khalife returned to Tunisia to perform on the stage of the Roman amphitheatre to a full house, as part of the 45th International Festival of Carthage. Speaking to the audience, Khalifa opened the concert by stating:
People of Tunisia, good evening. This night, like all nights in Tunisia, has a special taste. In spite of all the collapses and defeats around the world, Tunisians are still the kind of people who have a special taste and love. They do not broadcast my songs and concerts on TV, but I know that my public keeps on listening to me.
Khalife later dedicated a song to the "revolutionary leader Che Guevara".
This article incorporates text from the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.