Renowned Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife supports Palestinians amid Israeli aggression

Ati Metwaly , Sunday 16 May 2021

Throughout his decades-long career, Khalife has been always very vocal defending the Palestinian cause in his creativity and statements

Marcel Khalife
"I am a Lebanese, Palestinian, Arab citizen: I condemn in the strongest terms the brutal aggressive crimes against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Galilee, the Negev triangle, and every inch of the Palestinian land," he said in a Facebook post.
"I consider it a blatant aggression against the rights of the Palestinian people, human values, and on the principles of truth, justice and dignity. I declare my boundless solidarity with the Palestinian people in the face of the killing and slaughter," the message reads.
Khalife is one of many voices from the international artistic community who have condemned the ongoing Israeli aggression on Palestine lands.
The almost week-long Palestinian-Israeli escalation has been deemed the most serious since 2014 as Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in retaliation for hostilities by Israeli police against Palestinian protesters near Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli air strikes targeting civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip, and most importantly the Israeli eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
The action-reaction loop, which initially started on Monday­, brought the death toll in Palestine to 202– 22 in the West Bank and 181 in Gaza, including 52 children and 31 women – health officials said, while Israel has reported 10 dead.

Born in 1950 in the Lebanese coastal town of Amchit (Amsheet), to the sound of the wind, birds, sea, fishermen, church bells, and silence, that inspired his music, throughout his career Khalife has been always very vocal defending the Palestinian cause in his creativity and statements.

Starting with his Al-Mayadeen ensemble which he formed in 1976 and performing songs he had written, his music has always been nurtured by the Arabic traditions, enriched with Western harmonies, as he sings poetry by renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, referencing nationalism and revolution. He also used his music to defend his own homeland, Lebanon.

Unable to continue life in war-torn Lebanon, Khalife moved to Paris where he connected with some friends and tried to record his music. Joining love with nationalism, expressing anguish in the face of injustice, Khalife touches on human emotions. Basing his songs on Darwish's poetry, Al-Mayadeen delivered music which, due to its content, geographical and temporal positioning, became political. 

Yet, despite singing songs infused with revolutionary yearnings, Khalife does not consider himself a political activist. In a 2014 interview for Ahram Online, Khalife expressed that "at heart, I am a musician, not a politician. I contribute to the bigger cause with music."

Throughout his career, Khalife performed at many fund raising concerts, of which proceeds were directed to hospitals, cultural centres and many other institutions in need.

He sees politics as a "horrible thing" and hopes that "politicians are sent to an island where they can rule themselves and let the people live."

Khalife's music and refusal to remain silent about injustice has garnered him over 20 prestigious international awards, countless honours and recognitions. Among the most prestigious of the past decade are: the National Palestine Medal (2011), UNESCO Artist For Peace, France (2005), Freemuse Ambassador, Denmark (2007), Cultural and Artistic Recognition Award by the Tunisian Ministry of Culture (2012).

Today, apart from the many songs, Khalife has numerous instrumental compositions to his name: The Symphony of Return, the Rababa Concerto, Sharq, Suite for Oud and Orchestra, Mouda'aba (Caress), Diwan Al-Oud, Jadal Oud duo, Oud Quartet, and many others. His works have been performed by many internationally acclaimed orchestras, including the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the city of Tunis, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. Khalife also composes music for film, and many dance performances by prominent troupes such as Caracalla Dance Theatre, Sarab Ensemble, Rimah.

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