Lebanese Composer Marcel Khalife's Urgent Reminder That Peace Is Possible

Nov 1, 2016
Originally published on November 1, 2016 5:23 pm

Marcel Khalife is a Lebanese composer, singer and innovator on his instrument, the lute-like oud. Khalife performed his first concerts amid the rubble of bombed-out buildings in Beirut during Lebanon's civil war. Now, 40 years later, he is one of the most prolific figures in Arabic music. Khalife's new album, Andalusia Of Love, combines classical, jazz and folk idioms with poetry to create a provocative new work.

Khalife sings with a kind of wistful optimism. He has lived and created amid some of the most terrible and intractable conflicts of our time, yet he continues to dream of peace and reconciliation. In this suite of 14 seamlessly linked pieces, Khalife returns to a touchstone of that dream: Andalusia.

Andalusia is a region in the southern parts of Spain and Portugal, where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together for centuries during medieval times. For Khalife, that history is an enduring reminder that peaceful cohabitation is possible for people of these faiths. Khalife himself is a Christian, but throughout his career, he has set to music the words of a Muslim writer, the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. On this album, the composer and poet conjure a world they can only imagine, but that burns within them like the memory of a first love.

Khalife performs this suite with his sons, Rami and Bachar, on piano and percussion, and Gilbert Yammine on the jangling, ethereal string instrument called the qanun. Their instrumental textures animate the yearning, nostalgic sentiments in Darwish's poetry.

This brooding, beautiful, urgent music may call you to spend an hour in a world where peace is not a dream, but a hard-earned reality.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Marcel Khalife is a Lebanese composer, singer and innovator on his instrument, the oud. Khalife performed his first concerts amid the rubble of bombed-out buildings in Beirut during Lebanon's civil war. Now, decades later, he is one of the most prolific figures in Arabic music. Reviewer Banning Eyre says Khalife's new album, "Andalusia Of Love," combines classical jazz and folk with poetry to create a provocative new work.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NASSITI")

MARCEL KHALIFE: (Singing in foreign language).

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: Marcel Khalife sings with a kind of wistful optimism. He has lived and created amid some of the most terrible and intractable conflicts of our time, yet he continues to dream of peace and reconciliation. In this suite of 14 seamlessly linked pieces, Khalife returns to a touchstone of that dream, Andalusia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANDALOS AL HOB")

KHALIFE: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: Andalusia is the southern part of Spain where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together for centuries during medieval times. For Khalife, that history is an enduring reminder that peaceful cohabitation is possible for people of these faiths. Khalife himself is a Christian, but throughout his career he has set to music the words of a Muslim writer, Mahmoud Darwish, one of the most beloved Palestinian poets. On this album, composer and poet joined forces to conjure a world they can only imagine, but that burns within them like the memory of first love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NAHLA")

KHALIFE: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: Khalife performs this suite with his sons, Rami and Bachar, on piano and percussion and Gilbert Yammine on the jangling ethereal string instrument called qanun. Their instrumental textures animate the yearning, nostalgic sentiments in Darwish's poetry.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCEL KHALIFE SONG, "ANA LI HABIBI")

EYRE: This brooding, beautiful, urgent music may call you to spend an hour in a world where peace is not a dream but a hard-earned reality.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANA LI HABIBI")

KHALIFE: (Singing in foreign language).

SHAPIRO: Banning Eyre is a senior producer for Afropop Worldwide. He reviewed Marcel Khalife's "Andalusia Of Love." Khalife's ensemble begins their tour in December.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANA LI HABIBI")

KHALIFE: (Singing in foreign language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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