Photo source: @http://thisweekinpalestine.com/marcel-khalife/
A composer, a renowned Oud player, and a singer-songwriter, Marcel Khalife started as a voice of a generation conflicted with war in Lebanon, Palestine and the region in the 1970s and morphing into the voice of hope and resisting against all that came with these grim times.. His songs, many poems by Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish, reflected all that was happening on a social and political level. But what created the legend of Marcel Khalife was his genius in bringing intimate individualized stories to the forefront of his musical storytelling as he embedded the socio-political turmoil in the backgrounds of these stories through music compositions that grab the listener, filter through their veins and effortlessly remain; his warm and emotional voice aiding this process. He became the voice for every activist, every prisoner, every couple’s abrupted love, every fed up person walking the streets, and every mother’s grievance.
Marcel Khalife was able to not only capture and create nuanced situations and emotions in his songs, but he also created a balance between these songs and his unwatered down political songs that became national and regional anthems criticizing the regimes. These anthems became the voice, the expression, and hope for generations that had plummeted into a darkness that sometimes left everyone hopeless. His songs became that hope booming from radios in homes, taxis, and stores.
The songs ranged from forbidden love, a prisoner missing his mother, an ode to Palestine, and humorous take on a couple broken up due to the division of Beirut to East and West. Here is just the tiniest sample of his music.
Rita (from the album Promises from the Storm – 1976)
Rita is a song about two lovers who have been forced to separate due to the war. The man sings about how after two years of being in love, a rifle has come in between his eyes and the eyes of his lover Rita which forced them apart. The balance and mix of the melancholic almost serene composition with the voice almost full of quietened anger and tears that are held back create the magic in this song.
Ommi / My Mother (from the album Promises from the Storm – 1976)
Ommi might be one of the most heartbreaking songs one would discover yet its delicate and fragile emotions makes it near impossible not to immerse yourself in it. It relates the story of a young man, so far away from his mother and motherland, in prison. The young man begins the song with the chorus, stating how much his misses his mother’s homemade bread and coffee. The song continues as he tells her how to continue life during this living tragedy.
Wa Ana Amshi/ Walk Tall (from the album Dreamy Sunrise 1985)
Wa Ana Amshi, or Walk Tall, is a political song that shaped and reflected the situation in Palestine. It became an anthem for the Palestinian struggle as well as the region’s struggle and to this day is one of Khalife’s most important works.
One of my personal favorites, Ta2 Ta2 is a sound that can be the sound of a glass of whiskey or wine hitting and ringing against the bottle of liquor. That sound can also be the sound of a gunshot. This song also is about two lovers who had to stop dating because after the war broke out in Beirut and it was split to East and West, this couple – one christian and one muslim – have had to break up due to the divide. The lover singing is relating how they broke up due to these unreasonable reasons and on this particular night he wants to make the glass to jump up and kiss the bottle – alluding to both how much he misses her and willing to go through the checkpoints as well as resisting and fighting back.