Marcel Khalife: Middle Eastern Music

May 11 2018

Marcel Khalife: Middle Eastern Music

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Culture in the Middle East is very diverse. The Middle East is home to a multitude of religions and cultures that allows for a melting pot of culture. A positive of the melting pot is the mix of cultures. From this many different things arise, one of which being music. Born in Lebanon, artist Marcel Khalife has released many songs describing his lifestyle and the lifestyles of people from Lebanon.

Lebanon is home to a diverse interesting culture, although it is also home to much violence, similar to much of the Middle East. During the 1970s Lebanon was experiencing a Civil War. The war, a religious war, was between a unified Christian groups and the Palestine Liberation Organization unified with muslim militias. The war started due to controversies between religions and religious persecution, which is what affected Marcel Khalife.  Much of Khalife’s inspiration is from this war and the different persecution against people in his home country of Lebanon. One which he said is truly based off the persecution is Walking Tall. Granted the song is in arabic so I could not get the full message, based on the title and an interview I was able to figure out that the song is about fighting through problems that may strike you and to never give up.

In an interview Marcel Khalife stated that “My music is for the service of humanity, and is intended to present a serious and sincere work for those tormented in this destructive war. My music was a sort of balm for those wounds.” He also believes that his music derives from “his rebel soul, which is why it relates to so many people in the Middle East and specifically in Lebanon.

Khalife wrote his music as an inspiration for people struggling with different life scenarios, but he also did much for the culture of Lebanon and his town. Marcel Khalife was born in Amchit, Lebanon on June 10, 1950. From a young age music was involved in his life. He spent much the first five years of his career at the Beirut Music Conservatory in Lebanon. However after his career there releasing and producing music he returned to his home town and formed a small musical group. According to Khalife he created this group in order to maintain and continue the culture musically in Lebanon. The group was created around the same time as Lebanese Civil War began and there first performance was done during the war. The music they focused on was predominantly Arab Choral style of music. The name of the group is the Al Mayadeen ensemble, which translates to Battlefield or Village Square. The popularity of this group extended well beyond Lebanon and struck a chord with people all around the Middle East. Al Mayadeen’s songs were very similar to the original songs of Marcel Khalife. They were inspired by struggles of people and an inspiration to try and help. Three of their most popular songs are based on this theme or background. These songs include, Umi (My Mother), Rita w’al-Bundaqiya (Rita and the Rifle) and Jawaz al-Safr (Passport). All three are directly based on persecution against certain people and the struggle in which they faced dealing or escaping these problems. Al Mayadeen along with Marcel Khalife had a very successful career. Not only in the Middle East, the group Al Mayadeen performed in Europe as well as the United States, Canada, South America and Africa.

Marcel Khalife had a very successful career as a musician. From working in the Lebanon Musical Conservatory in Beirut to organizing an Arab Choral group, Al Mayadeen from his hometown Amchit, Lebanon. His success was recognized around the world as he was invited to many differnt prestigious music festivals. These include but are not limited to, Baalbeck, Beit Eddine (Lebanon), El Hammamat (Tunisia), Timgad (Algeria), Jarash (Jordan), Arles (France), Krems, Linz (Austria), Bremen (Germany), ReOrient (Sweden), Pavia (Italy), World Music Festival in San Francisco, New York, Cleveland (U.S.). He has also performed in many different prestigious music halls. Including the Place des Arts in Montreal, Symphony Space and Merkin Concert in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Berklee Theatre and New England Conservatory in Boston. Marcel Khalife music had a large impact on the lives of many people in the Middle East and across the world. His music spoke to many people and the problems in which they had to suffer through. His success did not stop at his own music creation. His group Al Mayadeen was also very successful and accomplished his goal of restoring/improving the music culture from his hometown and the Middle East.

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