Friday on the NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown profiles Marcel Khalife, who for nearly 40 years has been rousing audiences with songs about love and strife. Khalife is a folk singer, a classical composer and one of Lebanon’s most famous oud players, blending traditional eastern tunes with modern Arabic poetry. He also mixes music with politics, rallying against injustice, poverty and political aggression. In fact, in some ways, his career was born out of the violence of Lebanon’s brutal 15-year, civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. While other artists fled, he stayed, giving voice to the frustrations of his countrymen. Several times during performances, bombs and gunfire erupted nearby. Khalife played on, becoming something of a folk hero in the process.
Over the years, Khalife has also embraced the Palestinian cause, using the poetry of the famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. In addition to performing around the world, Khalife is the music director and resident composer for the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.
Below is video of Khalife performing “Passport,” a poem by Darwish. (Video is courtesy of “Damascus, Arab Capital of Culture 2008 Festival”; lyrics after the video.)
by Mahmoud Darwish
They did not recognize me in the shadows
That suck away my color in this Passport
And to them my wound was an exhibit
For a tourist Who loves to collect photographs
They did not recognize me,
The palm of my hand without the sun
Because the trees recognize me
All the songs of the rain recognize me
Don’t leave me pale like the moon!
All the birds that followed my palm
To the door of the distant airport
All the wheatfields
All the prisons
All the white tombstones
All the barbed boundaries
All the waving handkerchiefs
All the eyes
were with me,
But they dropped them from my passport
Stripped of my name and identity?
On a soil I nourished with my own hands?
Today Job cried out
Filling the sky:
Don’t make an example of me again!
Oh, gentlemen, Prophets,
Don’t ask the trees for their names
Don’t ask the valleys who their mother is
From my forehead bursts the sword of light
And from my hand springs the water of the river
All the hearts of the people are my identity
So take away my passport!