Marcel Khalife: The Bob Dylan Of The Arab World

Marcel Khalife is a Middle Eastern musical and political icon.

hide captionMarcel Khalife is a Middle Eastern musical and political icon.

Driss Ben Malek/Courtesy of the artist

The Lebanese classical musician and composer Marcel Khalife is often compared to Bob Dylan — not for his music, but for his politics. The Middle Eastern musical and political icon sings about freedom and nationalism.

Khalife is famous for translating poetry into music. For years, he collaborated with the nationalist Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

"It began when I graduated from the music conservatory in Beirut. The civil war started in Lebanon — I wanted to change the world with music," says Khalife.

The beginning of the Lebanese civil war left Khalife besieged in his hometown. He found solace in Darwish's words.

"I had nothing in my loneliness except for Mahmoud Darwish's poetry collections," says Khalife. "I said to myself: I need to make music of them. Since then, my musical career has been connected to Mahmoud Darwish's poetry."

Khalife's new album, Fall of the Moon, is an homage to his late friend Darwish.

Khalife was famously indicted on blasphemy charges for singing the Quran in his song "Ana Yousef Ya Abi." These days, Khalife's music is the language of the revolution, chanted on Arab streets.

"What is happening in the Arab world today should have happened a long time ago. These uprisings, these revolutions were necessary because we needed to move beyond the stagnation that we used to live in," says Khalife. "But let us be clear — these revolutions need time. No revolution in the world resulted in positive outcomes that quickly."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.