Birth Date: 10 Jun 1950
Academy of Boulogne Billancourt Orchestra, The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the city of Tunis, and the Absolute Ensemble.
"I realize myself more in music than in singing. This tendency is evident in several of my works, the last of which was the 'Oud Concerto,'"
"When the text is absent, I find myself more comfortable in composing music, although this need not suggest that I am ignoring the song, which is essential to me. Rather, my real interest lies in musical composition. This was present in early compositions like Rita, Aaras (Weddings) and Tusbahouna ala Watan (Ode to Homeland). Each of these was a musical composition and not just music written for songs. In these works, whenever the lyrics stop the music continues; and whenever I feel the lyrics are incomplete, they are completed by music."
Banishment from Tunisia
Three times (1996, 1999 and 2003), he faced criminal prosecution for his song I am Joseph, O Father, written by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Khalife was accused of insulting religious values by including a two-line verse from a chapter of the Qur'an.
Khalifa recorded the song in his 1995 album "The Arabic Coffee Pot" that was based on a 1992 poem of the prominent Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish. The poem adapted this verse from the story of Yousef (Joseph) in the Qur'an : "O my father, I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon bowing before me in homage." It tells the story of how Joseph's brothers were jealous of him because he was handsome and kind, his brothers don't like him. The story reflected the suffering of the Palestinian people.
In 1999, the case was brought to a court by the newly appointed investigating judge, Abdel Rahman Shihab, who reproached Marcel of "insulting religious values by using a verse from the chapter of Joseph from the Qur'an in a song." Marcel faced six months to three years imprisonment for publicly insulting religion (article 474 of the Lebanon's penal code, six months to three years in prison) and blasphemy (article 473 of the penal code, one month to one year in prison).
Senior Sunni Muslim clerics in Lebanon ruled that singing verses from the Qur'an was "absolutely banned and not accepted." The highest Sunni Muslim religious authority in Lebanon, Grand Mufti Sheikh Muhamed Rashid Qabbani, has maintained repeatedly that Khalifa is guilty of blasphemy for singing a verse from the Qur'an. Sheikh Qabbani said : "There is a limit to freedom of expression. One limit is that it should not infringe on people's religious beliefs."
Demonstrations of solidarity came from many sides, intellectuals, human rights organisations and ordinary people. A meeting were held in Beirut where 2000 people sang altogether the song in trial. Marcel Khalife even received the support of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a Shi'ite theologist. The famous Lebanese writer Elias Khoury harshly criticized the trial, as did Mahmoud Darwish, who said :
"Fundamentalism is in the process of stifling culture and creation in the Arab world, I say it is shameful. I am ashamed. We should all be ashamed. If Marcel Khalifa is found guilty, it will be an insult to culture."
Ghada Abu Karrum, the judge, rejected the demand of the prosecutor, and found him innocent of the charge of degrading Islam. As stated in the judgment :
"[...] Although, in the first place, it is not for this court in any circumstance to indulge in discussing whether the action of the defendant mentioned above constitutes a deviation from Islamic tradition and its prohibitions, it is necessary to note that human societies have always known - since the advent of religions until this day - forms of behavior that touched the various aspects of life while not always observing all religious rules or abiding by them without that necessarily forming a desecration of the religious sanctity of the texts from which these rules have emerged."
" Hence, it is clear from listening to the tape and CD at hand that the defendant has chanted the poem in gravity and composure that reveal a deep perception of the humanism expressed in the poem ornamented with the holy phrase. [He is] committed in his expression - in form and content - to a performance that bears no infringement on the holiness of the Qur'anic text, or offense to it or its content, nor reveal any intent to incite disparagement of it explicitly or implicitly, neither by words, meaning, nor music. "
He wrote also Samaa.
2005.11.14: Lincoln Theatre Washington DC USA 2004.01.12: Kennedy Center Washington DC USA
"Every serious and sincere musical work reflects revolution, the artist is by nature a rebel ; one must be rebellious with his writing and creative projects."
"Freedom, democracy and bread are the things we lack in our region"