49. Ode To A Homeland
Written & performed by Marcel Khalifé
From the CD Ode To A Homeland (Club du Disque Arabe, France 1990)



About Marcel Khalifé


Ode to a Homeland

Songs of nationalism’ – the original Arabic title ‘Tasbahouna Ala Watan’ twists the traditional ‘good night’ (literally, in Arabic, ‘may you wake up feeling well’), to come up with ‘may you wake up with a homeland.’’

- Marcel Khalifé, Palestineonline.com http://www.palestineonlinestore.com



Here is an introduction to Khalifé given by Edward Said at an event at Swarthmore College in Philadelphia in April 2002, sourced from www.rockpaperscissors.com:

The event honored Mahmoud Darwish, the Arab world’s most prominent contemporary poet. Marcel Khalifé was invited to participate in the event in recognition of his role in ‘popularising’ Mahmoud Darwish’s poems and making them accessible to the layperson in the Arab world by composing music to his poems, among those of other contemporary Arab poets, and singing these poems. Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry figures prominently in Marcel Khalifé’s lyrical works.

The late Edward Said, Arab American intellectual and scholar, author, music critic and accomplished pianist, was invited to introduce both Darwish and Khalifé. Professor Said often contributed articles on music to The Nation magazine.

[Said]: Two of the iconic figures of contemporary Arab culture are here, on a rather unique occasion, bringing them together on the same stage in suburban Philadelphia at Swarthmore College. But such are the wonders of modern communication…

I’m pleased, first of all to introduce for the first half of the programme, the Lebanese singer and oud player Marcel Khalifé, who was born in Lebanon and was trained as a musician in Lebanon – he was born in 1950 – and has become a kind of pioneer in two rather special things; and I’m going to be very brief, because many of you know who he is, but those of you who don’t know him, should know that he has become a hero of Arabic song and music literally all over the Arab world, although he is Lebanese, because he transcends national boundaries in what he does and what he sings about, and in his manner.

First of all, he is that rare thing – and take it from me, it is rare, because I know a lot about music – he is a musician engagé – he is involved in the society and the times of which he is a part. These times are powerless times, as you know, for the Arabs, and Palestinians in particular, and therefore he gives voice to those things, those great issues that face the Arab world in a way that is not only contemporary, but deeply moving. He talks about, or rather sings about liberation, social injustice, tradition and modernity and the lives of people, and he has done more than anyone, done the most to raise the level of popular music in the Arab world.

The second thing that he has done and continues to do, is that he is, I think, the only major musician in the Arab world singing in Arabic, to compose his songs using contemporary Arab poetry, and he doesn’t resort to what most singers do today in Arabic – that is to say, sentimental or unimportant, nugatory, trivial lyrics.

His music has been particularly associated with the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and I think this is what gives his presence here its absolute relevance. So instead of soporific sentimentalism, he has brought an elevation of lyrics in a popular idiom to the entire Arab world in a way that nobody has succeeded in doing.

So would you please welcome Marcel Khalifé and his Ensemble…


About Mahmoud Darwish


Haaretz: Will you visit the village where you were born, Birwa?

Darwish: No. Today it is [a kibbutz] called Yas’ur. I prefer to store the memories that still linger of open spaces, fields and watermelons, olive and almond trees. I remember the horse that was tied to the mulberry tree in the yard and how I climbed onto it and was thrown off and got a beating from my mother. She always hit me, because she thought I was a real urchin. I actually don’t remember being so mischievous. I remember the butterflies and the clear feeling that everything was open. The village stood on a hill and everything was spread out below. One day I was awakened and told that we had to flee. No one said anything about war or danger. We went by foot, I along with my three siblings, to Lebanon, and the youngest was a toddler and never stopped crying the whole way.

- Haaretz interview with Mahmoud Darwish, July 14, 2007


I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother,
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood,
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up,
To make a single word: Homeland….

- Mahmoud Darwish




News Middle East: Palestinian poet Darwish dies. Updated on: Sunday, August 10, 2008 03:34 Mecca time, 00:34’



From an obituary on Mahmoud Darwish, the following:

Mahmoud Darwish: Palestinian ‘poet of the resistance’

The poet Mahmoud Darwish was the voice of the Palestinian odyssey, whose stark writing reflected the desperation and alienation of the Palestinian people. He published more than 20 collections of poetry, which have been translated into many languages (although few of them into English), and was the Arab world’s best-selling poet. His poems are engraved in the hearts of millions of Palestinians and his words have been shouted by anti-occupation demonstrators in the streets of Ramallah, Damascus and Cairo. Many have been set to music, including ‘I yearn for my mother’s bread.’

Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1941 in al Birweh, an Arab village in the Acre region which became part of the new state of Israel in 1948. His family fled to Lebanon, although they returned the following year. Darwish published his first poetry collection, ‘Asafir bila ajniha’ (‘Wingless Birds’, 1960) while still a teenager and soon made a reputation as a ‘poet of the resistance’. One of his best known poems was ‘Identity Card’, with its defiant opening lines ‘Record! I am an Arab/And my identity card is number fifty thousand’.

Darwish was arrested three times by Israel for reciting ‘inciting poems’ and left for Cairo in the Seventies. He joined the ranks of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (the PLO) and became close to its leader Yasser Arafat. In 1987 he was elected to the PLO’s executive committee and it was Darwish who wrote the declaration of independence of 1988 read out by Arafat when he proclaimed the state of Palestine.

Mahmoud Darwish, poet and writer: born al Birweh, Palestine 13 March 1941; died Houston, Texas 9 August 2008.’

- Mahmoud Darwish: Palestinian ‘poet of the resistance’, by Said Ghazali, Monday, The Independent, Obituaries, 11 August 2008