The Khalife Boys

Everyone has heard of Marcel Khalife. Whether they like his music or not that’s a different matter. But you cannot have met someone who is not acquainted with his revolutionary songs.

When I was a kid and we used to live in Algeria, my family and his were riding the communist wave together. It’s safe to say that I was brought up to his lyrics. I was cradled each night to Oumaima’s melodious voice singing Assfour and the rythms of his Oud.

Marcel Khalife symbolizes to me the childhood I adored, and the dreams I would like to follow and acquire. That’s what I was taught.

Although the Khalife family played at international and Lebanese Music Festivals every other year, I couldn’t attend either of their concerts. So this year, after a wait that lasted more than I can keep track of, I finally attended their concert.

I was full of anticipation and excitement.

Finally, he walked up to the stage, sitting on the same chair he always sits on, cradling his Oud like a child in need, leading his two sons Rami and Bachar to their rightful places. As soon as he stroke the first string, I felt jolts going down my fingers. And then he sang, with the same exact voice I remember, the same exact tunes I recall, with the same exact passion I expected. It wasn’t a surprise to me that I started crying at the sound of his voice. Something I’ve been longing to hear for so long.

For those who  last heard Marcel perform in the 90s, they expected a revolutionary soundtrack of sorts. But for those who follow his progress, they knew that he must have a trick up his sleeve…

When you have on one side, Marcel’s oriental base and on the other Bachar and Rami’s innate urban talent, you can’t but expect an explosion of flavors and music.

When they played Jawaz el Safar (dedicated to Palestine), they created such a harmonious and yet explosive mix between the two generations that you couldn’t but feel the vibration of the cords and the percussion of the drums go through you.

At one point, all lights were dim and the entire crowd went silent, for Marcel was about to play Oummi accompanied only by his Oud. An exhibit of a song as old as time and yet always heartfelt and overwhelming. I called my mom and we listened to this song together, and it felt like the entire world just faded away but her and I and the lyrics.

I write these words now with a huge smile on face knowing that last night was a fulfillment.

Jawaz Safar: