I first heard the music of Marcel Khalife, the Lebanese-born oud virtuoso, when a guest host on Morning Becomes Eclectic brought in a bunch of Arab LP’s, including a beguiling song for oud and voice. I had it on a cassette air check for years, but didn’t know what exactly it was until recently. The song was “Land of the South,” from an album called Al Mayadine: Of All the Beautiful Mothers. The song is about the Israeli aerial bombardment of Southern Lebanon in 1982, in reprisal to Hezbollah’s shelling of northern Israel. I can remember seeing jet fighters bombing an apartment building on TV back then; the damage was devastating. We start this week’s show with this plaintive song. Marcel Khalife plays the oud, with Oumaima Khalil singing.
We next feature three selections from Khalife’s latest album, Andalusia of Love, which he and his musician sons Rami and Bachar have been performing on tour (more on that below). The whole album is a suite with poetry by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The poetry evokes the time of Al Andalus Spain, which prior to the Christian reconquista of 1492 was a society of peaceful co-existence between the Moorish, Jewish, and Christian populaces. By extension the music asks us, “Why can’t we get along like that today?”
The trio is on a U.S. tour thanks to the efforts of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which works, among other goals, to preserve and share Arab heritage with people of all backgrounds, and to promote cultural understanding of Arab culture. It couldn’t be more timely. Music helps build powerful bridges in a season of mistrust.
Khalife and his sons perform in Los Angeles at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, December 16, for one night as part of the tour, at the classic Wilshire Ebell Theater in Hancock Park. It’s sure to be a beautiful and moving concert.
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 12/16/16: