At 8 years old, Bachar Mar-Khalifé and his family fled their civil war torn country in Lebanon to France. In France, Mar-Khalifé developed his musical skills as an instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. He graduated from the Conservatoire de Paris and has released three albums since. His debut album, “Oil Slick,” (2010) took ten years to complete, while his latest album, “Ya Balad,” (2015) took him 10 days to complete. In “Ya Balad” (“Oh, Country”), he responds to the Lebanese Civil War and his country’s remnants of destruction and political turmoil. He reflects on his family’s need to flee their country, and the current state of Lebanon.
In this album, the multi-instrumentalist experiments with different sounds and instrumentals that make it impossible to put his music into a specific genre. His music merges jazz, indie, folk, rock, electronic, and classical to create a unique sound. Through his music, he is able to draw forth feelings of peace, fear, confusion, and desperation. In this very personal album, Mar-Khalifé sings in Arabic but, is able to convey strong emotional and political messages regardless of this language barrier.
His album sparked controversy for containing underlying sexual messages and other messages that were believed to go against God, and was even censored in Lebanon. His song, “Kyrie Eleison” (meaning “God have mercy” in Greek) was highly controversial and Lebanese authorities stated that he would not be allowed to promote his album in Lebanon unless this song was deleted from the album.
Mar-Khalifé has spoken up about this issue on Facebook, releasing a statement in Arabic, French and English on April 13, 2016: “I sang KYRIE Eleison, and more powerfully as ever, exactly as I sang it in Beirut and as I will sing it wherever I want to scream at the political and religious institutions who want to govern our lives as if we are still living in the Middle Ages. I scream for my humanity against the processes that repress the spirit. I scream against the cultural and intellectual poverty imposed by a model of society where money is the sole reference. I scream for my being, refusing to be submitted to anyone or anything. I doubt, I seek, I question, I sing, I surrender, I do not surrender, I let it go, I continue, I sing, I like, I drink, I dance, I do wrong, I live.”
The inner conflict that Mar-Khalifé undergoes regarding his national, religious, and political identity can resonate with those who feel repressed in any aspect of their identity.
Mar-Khalifé will be performing this album on April 4th at Cinema La Compagnia (Via Cavour, 50r) at 9 PM for the Middle East Film Festival. His album is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud. Take a listen and join us for this exciting event!