Promises of the Storm
Rita and the Rifle
This 1983 release finds the Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife performing his own compositions on oud (Arab lute) and vocals. Here he creates musical settings for poems by the world-renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and one poem (“Jaffra”) by another Palestinian poet, Izzidine Munassrah. Khalife has been called the Bob Dylan of the Middle East, but these protest songs have an ethereal quality and, unlike Dylan, Khalife is a refined instrumentalist. (He was trained at the National Conservatory of Music in Beirut, where he also taught oud and music theory.) The title cut critiques sentimental love songs; instead Khalife sings of political resistance. On “The Passport,” lively strumming and dazzling runs accompany Khalife’s vocals, which range from quietly restrained to impassioned. The lyrics refer to Palestinians having to carry passports in their homeland, but some of the most expressive singing is wordless. Khalife has dazzled audiences around the globe and you don’t need to understand Arabic to enjoy Promises of the Storm.