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From Lebanon’s Marcel Khalife, Songs of Strife and Love

In another in our series about the Kennedy Center's Arabesque art festival, Jeffrey Brown profiles Lebanese folk singer Marcel Khalife, who for nearly 40 years has been rousing audiences with songs about love and strife, politics and injustice.

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    And finally tonight, another in our series of stories tied to "Arabesque," the festival of Arab arts at Washington's Kennedy Center. Jeffrey Brown was in Lebanon recently to talk with one of the Mideast's leading musicians.


    When Marcel Khalife sings his songs of love and strife, as he has for more than 30 years now, his audiences often join in, familiar with the words and melodies.

    Khalife is a major figure in his native Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, known as a master of the oud, or lute, as a troubadour who puts modern Arabic poetry to song and tells of struggles within his region, and as a composer and performer of many musical styles.

  • MARCEL KHALIFE, Musician-Composer (through translator):

    I like variety. I like music from around the globe. I like folk music and classical music. I like to mix music.


    It began with the pear-shaped oud. Khalife says his parents gave him at age 8 to stop him from improvising music by banging on kitchen pots and pans. Khalife is widely credited with helping to transform the oud into a solo instrument, expanding its musical range.

    I see your eyes close.

  • MARCEL KHALIFE (through translator):

    To see better and to see more.


    You close your eyes to see better?

  • MARCEL KHALIFE (through translator):

    When I open my eyes, the view is limited. But when my eyes are closed, I can see forever.