News Story

Marcel Khalife's incredible career has spanned over 40 years, taking him from music teacher to one of the most popular musicians of the Arab world.

Dubbed the Bob Dylan of the Arabic world, Marcel Khalife is a musical freedom fighter, a pioneering innovator of Arabic musical traditions, and a global ambassador for his Lebanese heritage.

Join us as we look back over his musical life so far.

1950 Marcel Khalife is born in Amchit, a small coastal village north of Beirut. He shows an early interest in music and takes lessons with a local teacher.

1971 Khalife graduates from the Beirut National Conservatory of Music and soon begins teaching. He is already challenging convention and expanding the musical possibilities of the oud (a traditional Arabic lute).

1975 Against the backdrop of the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War, Khalife and his group perform in bombed-out buildings in Beirut with a message of peace and reconciliation.

1976 Khalife forms the Al Mayadeen Ensemble and his fame spreads beyond Lebanon’s borders with songs based on the poetry of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. He released his first album, a small collection of protest songs and political ballads.

1996 Khalife faces criminal prosecution for his song I am Joseph, O Father, written by Mahmoud Darwish. He is accused of blasphemy for singing a verse from the Qur'an. These charges are brought against him again in 1999 and 2003, despite vocal public objections and intervention by human rights organisations. He is acquitted every time.

1999 Khalife receives the Palestine Award for Music. He uses the prize money to establish an annual competition rewarding and motivating young creative Palestinian musicians.

2005 Khalife is named UNESCO Artist for Peace, joining a group of internationally-renowned artists who use their influence, charisma and prestige to promote UNESCO’s message of international peace and universal respect for human rights.

2008 Khalife helps to establish the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and composes The Arabian Concerto for their inaugural concert.

2016 Khalife debuts a new musical collaboration with his sons Rami and Bachar. They release an album titled Andalusia of Love which pays homage to the region where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived peacefully together for centuries.

Over the course of his career, Marcel Khalife has recorded over 20 albums, written soundtracks for films and documentaries, and composed instrumental works that have been played by orchestras across the world. Throughout this long and distinguished career, he has maintained an unwavering commitment to a message of universal peace.

Marcel Khalife will be performing in the Usher Hall on 11 August accompanied by his son Rami Khalife, a renowned pianist in his own right, and percussionist Aymeric Westrich.

Contemporary Music in association with Edinburgh Gin