With Love . . . Marcel Khalife
I had the awesome privilege of meeting one of my favorite artists this past Saturday at the Kennedy Center. Marcel Khalife, the Lebanese Legend, the Dude with the Oud, the King of the Strings and the creative genius behind such beautiful and memorable melodies, was in town performing to a sold-out crowd as part of the Arabesque festival which is closing its artistic curtains this coming Monday.
In preparation for the concert, I brought one his CDs I had bought on Salah Al-Deen Street when I was recently in Jerusalem. I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to get the CD signed and sent back home to my future father-in-law who is one of Marcel’s biggest fans (the man not too tall in all honesty) and has been ever since he was sentenced and jailed by Israel in the early 80’s, a familiar right of passage for most young Palestinian men and women.
We got to the Kennedy Center and when I opened the playbill for the night’s progarm, I found a insert that said: “The Kennedy Center is pleased to announce Marcel Khalife will autograph CDs in the Grand Foyer outside the Eisenhower Theater following the performance.” I was ecstatic! I was going to get my CD signed after all at a fraction cost of what my American peers would be paying ($20 for a CD that I bought for about a buck).
The concert was amazing: the music, the singing, the occasional moments of interaction between Marcel and the audience in a light-hearted and charming way. I know that I wasn’t the only one in that room shedding tears at the songs that were sung. All in all, the concert was unforgettable.
The best part though, came when we got in line and waited to have our CDs signed by Marcel himself. We waited about 10 minutes and finally, he came out, exhausted after a three-hour non-stop performance and sat down only to begin another tiring task of signing his name on the inside covers of CDs. Our turn finally came and with a huge smile on my face, I shook his hand and thanked him for such a great show, in Arabic of course. “Min weyn entum?” (Where are you from?) he asked. “Min Filasteen!” (From Palestine) we replied. “Ahalaaaaaaan wisahalaaaaan!” (Hello there and welcome!) he said as he smiled and warmly greeted us again. “Shu ismak?” (What’s your name?) he politely asked. “Jamil” I said, because I knew he was going to make the CD out to Jamil, which is my future father-in-law’s name. So he addressed it to Jamil and then closed the CD case. As he did so, he looked at it and asked: “Min weyn ishtareyt haal-CD?” (Where did you buy this CD?). Caught off guard, we quickly responded: “Min al-Quds al-MuHtalla!” (From Occupied Jerusalem). “Ahhhh, ashaan haal-CD muzawwar!” (Oh, because this CD is a fake/a pirated copy) were the last words we heard him speak as we shook his hand one last time and said goodbye.
I guess we were supposed to buy the CDs they were selling at the table and that he was supposed to sign only those, since they were legit. Oh well! Just goes to show you how cool Marcel Khalife really is: not only does he sing about an illegal occupation, but he also doesn’t mind signing illegal copies of his music. I guess you could say I robbed Marcel from his hard earned dollars, but he was cool with it. Sometimes though, those fake copies are all we can get back home. It’s just a reality of life.
In the meantime, I’ll consider downloading more of his songs . . . off iTunes of course.