'Music not lyrics is the important language of songs': Lebanese-French musician Bachar Mar Khalifé

Ossama Lotfy Fateem , Saturday 21 Apr 2018

Ahram Online spoke to Bachar Mar Khalifé who performed in Cairo within the March's Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival

Bachar Mar Khalifé
Bachar Mar Khalifé performs in Cairo, during D-CAF festival (Photo: Mostafa Abdel Aty)

Lebanese-French musician Bachar Mar Khalifé was the star of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) which took place in Cairo last month.

He performed songs from his new album that will be released in May in Paris, which will be a tribute to Hamza Eldin, the late Nubian singer.

“He had a strong influence on me,” Bachar told Ahram Online. The performance and the new work on Hamza’s songs is an addition to his legacy, from Bachar’s point of view, and the audience response in Cairo seemed to prove him right.

The technique Bachar used was a mix from his own music and Eldin’s songs. The combination found its way to the hearts of the audience, who responded by dancing and attempting to sing along to the new tracks. The atmosphere was interactive and the audience got what they wanted: the joy of music.

“They classify my music as hard rock, sometimes classic, others metal,” Bachar explained. But he prefers to leave every listener to enjoy it in their own way. The important part is to feel the music.

The artists uses “Mar” in his stage name; it stands for his famous father, Marcel Khalifé. Bachar is certainly proud of his father's work, but it’s not how he publicises himself. The artists are joined by blood but they remain very different in their musical styles.

Raised in a musical home, Bachar says that the influence of his father was very strong. Now, like his brother Rami Khalifé, also a musician, he often performs with his father, adding a contemporary touch to the show. The trio has also explored a variety of collaborations and cooperations with many other Arab musicians.

Although Bachar has learned a lot from these experiences, he underlines that it was his mother, Yolla Khalifé, an accomplished artist herself, whose effort and influence on his creative formation cannot be ignored.

It was Yolla who was attentive to his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris, and his training on various musical instruments.

Bachar made his own musical entry through posting his work online. He discovered that he had followers and received comments from his audience, so putting the audience into consideration became part of the process.

The songs he performs are in different languages, some of which he doesn’t speak.

“It is not the lyrics but the music that is the most important language of songs," Bachar explains. "People define it and understand it their own way. Expressing all aspects of music is the purpose. No words are necessary."

On stage he performs the philosophy of music itself through attitude, dreams and the way the whole band plays. He sees music as another way to express thoughts and a challenging way to experience life.

“Knowing your history, going through your daily life, feeling your daily experiences, makes the music relate to my day to-day life and that is exactly what I want the audience to feel,” explains Bachar.

The idea to perform at D-CAF came after a performance in Paris; he was approached by the D-CAF organisers and he referred them to a professional booker to set up the visit and the performance. The whole visit lasted 48 hours, but it was rich and worth it, he said. All the songs were performed for the first time on stage and he got the feel that they will be successful when released on the new album.

Bachar is a multi-instrumental musician; he is equally interested in oriental music and in discovering its roots, whether Lebanese music or Middle Eastern in general. It took him ten years to produce his first album, Oil Slick.

He has composed the music for several films, including Layla Fourie directed by Pia Marais and Fever, directed by Hicham Ayouch.

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