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Though born in Lebanon, Marcel Khalife is a cultural icon throughout the Arab World. Perhaps no other contemporary artist has so changed the face of Arab music. Classically trained on the Oud (lute) at the National Academy of Music in Beirut, Khalife refused to be limited by the rigidity of tradition, thus significantly expanding the possibilities of Arab Music. Yet for such an innovative composer, Khalife is amazingly popular. As the clips in this selection demonstrate, in almost any corner of the Arabic speaking world it is not unusual to find audiences numbering in the thousands singing along with Khalife. This composer, singer and musician has released more than 20 albums during his career. In 1999, he was tried in the Lebanese courts for “defaming” Islam by singing a line from the Qur’an that was included in the lyrics “I am Yusuf,” a poem by Mahmoud Darwish set to music by Khalife. He was acquitted, but he has always been a politically engaged artist using his art to comment on issues such as the Palestinian cause, the crisis in Lebanon and the cause of human rights in the Arab world.
The song "Passport" is also adapted from Darwish poems and was originally released on the album “Promises of the Storm,” which was first released in 1976 and was Marcel Khalife's first lyrical album. It endeared him to millions in the Arab world. Marcel Khalife and Mahmoud Darwish met for the first time 7 years after the first release of "Promises of the Storm". Darwish wrote of Khalife, "Marcel Khalife's music eliminated the gap created by the poets between poem and song. He restored to exiled emotion its rescuing power to reconcile poetry, which glorified its distance from people and was thus abandoned by them.
Poetry, therefore, developed the song of Marcel Khalife, While Khalife's song mended the relationship of poetry with people." The two tracks included here were recorded live at the Carthage International Festival in Tunisia on July 19, 2002 in front of an audience of 12,000 people. See Marcel Khalife's website for a full biography as well as performance dates, other song clips and much more: www.marcelkhalife.com
Marcel Khalife is joined by his son, Rami Khalife, on piano and Peter Herbert on double bass. This selection features a virtuoso performance by Khalife on the oud. “Passport" is also a poem by Mahmoud Darwish set to music. In it the passport serves as a symbol for the Palestinian stateless existence. The lyrics can be translated as follows: