Lebanese composer and oud (Near Eastern lute) master Marcel Khalifé is one of the world’s leading Arabic musicians, reshaping traditional Arabic music into an alluring, universally communicative form of expression. His haunting vocals and mesmerizing instrumentals have fascinated audiences worldwide. Born in 1950, Khalifé studied oud at the Beirut National Conservatory and has since injected new life into the instrument with his prolific, innovative and groundbreaking compositions. In addition to performing, Khalifé is a noted composer who is deeply attached to the lyrical text on which he relies. Through his association with great contemporary Arab poets, most notably the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, he seeks to renew the character of Arab song, breaking its stereotypes and advancing the culture of the society that surrounds it. Now, Khalifé has endeared and is recognized by millions in the Arab World as a cultural icon.
From 1970 to 1975, Marcel Khalifé taught at the conservatory and other local institutions. During that same period, he toured the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the United States giving solo performances on the oud.
In 1972, Marcel Khalifé created a musical group in his native village with the goal of reviving its musical heritage and the Arabic chorale. The first performances took place in Lebanon. 1976 saw the birth of Al Mayadeen Ensemble. Enriched by the previous ensemble’s musical experiences, Al Mayadeen’s notoriety went well beyond Lebanon. Accompanied by his musical ensemble, Marcel Khalifé began a lifelong far-reaching musical journey, performing in Arab countries, Europe, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, and Japan.
Marcel Khalifé has been invited several times to festivals of international fame such as: Baalbeck, Beit Eddine (Lebanon), Carthage, El Hammamat (Tunisia), Timgad (Algeria), Jarash (Jordan), Arles (France), Krems, Linz (Austria), Bremen (Germany), ReOrient (Sweden), Pavia (Italy), World Music Festival in San Francisco, New York, Cleveland (the USA).
He has performed in such prestigious halls as the "Palace of Arts" in Montreal, "Symphony Space" and "Merkin Concert" in New York, "Berklee Theatre" and "New England Conservatory" in Boston, "Royal Festival Hall", and "Queen Elizabeth Hall" in London,"UNESCO Palace" of Beirut, Cairo Opera House (Egypt), "Reciprocity","House of the Cultures of the World" and "UNESCO Hall" in Paris, "Central Dionysia" in Rome, "Yerba Buena" in San Francisco,"Sõdra Teatern" in Stokholm.
Since 1974, Marcel Khalifé has been composing music for dance which gave rise to a new genre of dance, the popular Eastern ballet (Caracalla, Sarab Ensemble, Rimah, Popular Art Ensemble)
Marcel Khalifé has also been composing soundracks for film, documentary and fiction, produced by Maroun Baghdadi and Oussama Mouhamad among others.
Marcel Khalifé has also composed several purely instrumental works like The Symphony of Return, Chants of the East, Concerto Al Andalus "Suite for Oud and Orchestra" "Mouda'aba" (Caress), Diwan Al Oud, "Jadal" Oud duo, Oud Quartet, "Al Samaa" in the traditional Arabic forms andTaqasim, duo for oud and double bass.
Marcel Khalifé’s compositions has been performed by several orchestras, notably the Kiev Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of Boulogne Billancourt Orchestra, The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the city of Tunis, and the "Absolute Ensemble".
Since 1982, Marcel Khalifé has been writing books on musicthat reflect his avant garde compositions and the maturity of his experience.
His challenges, however, are not only musical in character. Interpreter of music and oud performer, he is also a composer who is deeply attached to the text on which he relies. In his association with great contemporary Arab poets, particularly Palestinian poet par excellence, Mahmoud Darwish, he seeks to renew the character of the Arabic song, to break its stereotypes, and to advance the culture of the society that surrounds it.
His lyrical recordings adds up to about 20 albums, the likes Promises of the storm, Ahmad Al Arabi, Weddings, Peace Be With you, Ode To A Homeland, Arabic Coffeepot, The Children and Body(Al Jassad,) to name a few.
On his journey, Marcel Khalifé invents and creates original music, a novel world of sounds, freed of all pre-established rules. This language elevates him to the level of an ambassador of his own culture and to the vanguard of Near Eastern music in search of innovators.