Marcel Khalife at Baalbeck International Festival

The artist Marcel Khalife returns this year after a long period of absence, to the City of the Sun, Baalbeck. On July 5th, 2019 he will inaugurate the International Festival. The public will travel back to the Belle Epoque and the glory of yesteryear of the Festival. Marcel Khalife delivered his impressions to Prestige.



Marcel Khalife during one of his concerts. © Archives Marcel Khalife.


«In Baalbeck, I invite you to an evening of music and love songs from the past.»


The Baalbeck International Festival awakens childhood memories in you. Can you tell us about it?

As a child, I was impatient to grow, waiting for the passage of years that I completely subordinated to the «dictates» of music. In the same way, I was waiting to finally be judged grown enough and allowed to attend the festival of Baalbeck. Moreover, for a kid of my age, this mystical place seemed so distant that I consoled myself by a follow up of the only station of Lebanese Radio in coverage of the major event. Then came the war … and dragged on. With its lot of deaths, it taught us to love life more and to appreciate better the time given to music, sometimes the only thread of joy in these unstable times.

Of course, the Festival had been «swept away» during all those years. As an adult, I realized my dream, forcing the doors of its citadel by the sword of the Andalusian music of the most glorious times. Afterward, the whirlpools of life took me to other skies and other encounters.



© Archives Marcel Khalife.



It seems that after a meeting abroad, you decided to take the path of Baalbeck …

Indeed, in New York where Rami was studying, I met the internationally renowned Romanian pianist, György Sandor. He inquired about Baalbeck and its festival. He had participated in the early 60s to the festival presenting a piano-concert. With a pronounced French accent and the weight of his 90 years, he gave up a «burden» of emotions still alive. «I will never forget this exceptional night filled with love and clarity under this full moon reflecting on the captivating Citadel. And the smell of this «sfikha», and this love from the people with all their heart». He had not forgotten May Arida. After this meeting, I felt that fate put me back on the path of this beloved city. I had to find my City of the Sun. We had to start dreaming again of music and love.



Maestro Lubnan Baalbaki with Marcel Khalife. © Archives Marcel Khalife.


This year, you inaugurate the Baalbeck International Festival. What are your impressions? 

Under the title «Tousbihoune 3la Watan», this July 5th, 2019, new participation is attempted. I invite you to a night of frivolity and musical imagination, a night where the gods of Baalbeck should join us. The Lebanese Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Lubnan Baalbaki will launch the concert, accompanied by the Louaizé Choir, conducted by Khalil Rahmé. Result? From music and songs to the taste of love and passion of yesteryear. I invite you to a night where we will forget the darkness of our news with its little politicians. Therefore, a night when I will meet you to light a glow that will cross the time, bringing me back and you with me to the time of the purest dreams of our childhood.



Marcel Khalife playing Oud. © Archives Marcel Khalife.



Marcel Khalife, it is said, is a revolutionary artist. What do you think? 

Nothing beats my belief in the value of freedom. Nothing puts me in a state where I lose my self-control, like when someone allows himself to hinder my freedom. What would be the value of the artist if people shaped him according to their views, wishes, and desires, rather than accepting and estimating his own contribution to their lives? How well is the artist able to comply with the wishes of the audience, without losing his personality and even his soul? Am I a revolutionary artist? Yes … but am I this and nothing else? So no. I want to be other things too. My voice is capable of eruptions of madness just as it can also whisper sweet words or even completely choke in the manner of a drowned resigned to his fate. The question remains the attitude of the artist to his audience. For my part, I prefer the total integrity of my personality accepted by a smaller number, than a golden cage acclaimed by the masses.


Ummi (My Mother) is one of your first very successful songs. What inspired you?

There is no doubt that my mother will always occupy THE primordial place. All the arguments are “for” in her case. Nothing beats the peace that the head of a son feels on the breast of his mother, even if years and distances separate them. A major part of the secret of our existence is held by the mother. She holds in her small hands the keys to immortality. She is the only woman who for a man, never changes. Interview Conducted by Mireille Bouabjian.

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