Musical Performance: Marcel Khalife - Fall of the Moon: An Homage to Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish
Sun, April 29, 2012 7:00 pm at Town Hall
Marcel Khalife and the Al Mayadine Ensemble:
Fall of the Moon-An Homage to the Late Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish
Presented in association with the Center for Traditional Music and Dance
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Marcel Khalifé is one of the most revered cultural icons of the Arab world, with his contributions over the past half-century reaching far beyond the realm of music, to the point that his message has become an integral part of Arab self-perception, individuation, and identity. Recipient of numerous international awards and declared an Artist for Peace by UNESCO in 2005, Khalifé has aligned his musical vision with a political cause, giving voice to the suffering of Arabs and other people throughout the world living under oppression, and in war-torn homelands. Imbued with a faith in human dignity, Khalifé's message urges humankind to forsake violence, bigotry, and hatred, toward a realization of tolerance, fairness, and love, through his belief that "beauty always rises again from the ashes."
Born in 1950, in the village of Amsheet in Mount Lebanon, Marcel Khalifé began learning traditional Arab music and Qur'anic recitation (although his family was Christian) at a young age. He studied music at the National Conservatory in Beirut, where he went on to serve as an 'oud professor from 1972 to 1975. From the early stages of his career, Marcel began expanding the technical capabilities of the 'oud to create a distinct stylistic approach, (a clear departure from its traditional use in Arab music). His fondness for Western music inspired him to introduce counterpoint, harmony, classical form and structure, and elements of jazz to his works, creating an original style that has influenced countless Arab and non-Arab composers since. He has released twenty albums, ranging from music for solo voice with 'oud accompaniment, to 'oud duos and quartets, to large symphonic works with full chorus. His compositions have been performed by the Kiev Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of Boulogne Billancourt Orchestra, The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, and the Absolute Ensemble, among others. Khalifé's Al Mayadine Ensemble, founded in 1976, is one of the most important vehicles for performing his compositions and currently consists of twelve musicians, including his sons Rami and Bashar, on piano and percussion respectively, as well as vocalist Oumeima el Khalil, who has worked with Khalifé since 1979.
Khalifé's musical innovations alone are enough to distinguish him as a greatly influential figure in Arab musical history; however, his most significant contribution, one that has endeared him in hearts and minds throughout the Arab world and beyond, is his musical setting of the poetry of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, giving a voice to Palestinians living under oppression and fostering a sense of identity and unity among people of the Arab world.
Khalifé's newest suite of compositions, Fall of the Moon, is an introspective and highly emotional musical interpretation of one of Darwish's most powerful collections of prose poems, the posthumously published In the Presence of Absence. Despite being written urgently in the throes of death, In the Presence of Absence is a work erotically charged with an indulgence for life, enthralled with communing with the fleeting presence of the other, and unrelenting in the violence of its love and disdain for one's own absence. The collection is the work of a poet who was writing his own eulogy, a man who knew that death was near. The poems embody an eerie finality, meditating on loss and exile, yet are also exuberant with an emergent hope that wants to transcend the fading self into another voice - the story of the long struggle and suffering of the valiant people both Marcel Khalifé and Mahmoud Darwish have chosen to represent.
Mahmoud Darwish (13 March 1941 - 9 August 2008), perhaps more than any other figure, has articulated through the labor of his poetry the meaning of the Palestinian catastrophe, the resonance of the Edenic loss in the collective psyche of the Arab world. Darwish referenced Marcel Khalifé as his "heart's artistic twin," and in that sense Khalifé is an apt musician to give musical voice to his poetry.
"Marcel eliminated the gap created by the poets between poem and song. He restored to exiled emotion its rescuing power to reconcile poetry, which glorified its distance from people and was thus abandoned by them," Darwish explained in a statement before his passing in 2008. "Poetry, therefore, developed the song of Marcel Khalifé, while Khalifé's song mended the relationship of poetry with people. With this, the people on the street started to sing, and lyrics need not a podium, as bread need not announce itself to the hungry."
When accepting his title as UNESCO Artist for Peace, Khalifé' spoke these words:
"Let us bring happiness to people, and relieve them of the destructive anguish of war. Let us bring joy that allays sadness, hope that defeats despair, greenery that stops aridness, a horizon that leads to the unknown, a whisper that radiates love, and a meaning that redefines the cause yet again should it be lost in the ensuing chaos.
"My friends, we find in you what remains in human sense. Be the hope that saves us from the loneliness of death, bringing back the meaning of things. Be a cure in an age when salt is rubbed into wounds poked by the super powers. Be the voice of protest to old wounds that never healed. Be a roaring anger, magnificently composed, unruffled by people's rage, and unyielding to the temptation to escape the question with an obscure, prepared answer. Carry the password "Human Dignity" without fuss or loll, and take it to a new stage of struggle against occupiers and their masters. Always remember, should this sourness fall in our throats, remember!"
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.
Last updated: 2012-04-16 10:51:23
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