Marcel Khalife was born on June 10, 1950 in Amchit, Lebanon. He studied the oud at the Beirut National Conservatory of Music and graduated in 1971, and, ever since, has been injecting a new life into the oud. From 1972 to 1975, Marcel Khalife taught at the Beirut National Conservatory of Music, public Universities and other local private music institutions. During that same period, he toured the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the United States giving solo performances on the oud. Oud playing was traditionally constrained by the strict techniques that governed its playing. Highly talented and skillful musicians such as Marcel Khalife were, however, able to free the instrument from those constraints and thus greatly expanding its possibilities.
In 1972, Marcel Khalife created a musical group in his native village, Amchit, with the goal of reviving its musical heritage and the Arabic chorale. The first performances took place in Lebanon. 1976 saw the birth of Marcel Khalife's Al Mayadine Ensemble. Enriched by the previous ensemble's musical experiences, Al Mayadine's notoriety went well beyond Lebanon. Accompanied by his musical ensemble, Marcel Khalife began a lifelong far-reaching musical journey, performing at festivals of international fame and on prestigious stages the world over.
Marcel Khalife's lyrical and instrumental recordings add up to more than 20 albums and DVDs, including: Promises of the Storm (1976); Rain Songs (1977); Where from, do I Enter the Homeland? (1978); Weddings (1979); At the Borders (1979); Stripped Bare (1980); Happiness (1981); The Bridge (1983); Collections - 3 Albums (1984); Dreamy Sunrise (1984); Ahmad Al Arabi (1984); Peace Be With You (1989); Ode To A Homeland (1990); Arabic Coffeepot (1995); Jadal Oud Duo (1996); Magic Carpet (1998); Concerto Al Andalus (2002); Caress (2004); Voyageur (2004); Taqasim (2007); and, Sharq (2007).
Khalife’s challenges, however, are not only musical in character. Interpreter of music and oud performer, he is also a composer who is deeply attached to the text on which he relies. In his association with great contemporary Arab poets, particularly the late Palestinian poet par excellence, Mahmoud Darwish, he seeks to renew the character of the Arabic song, to break its stereotypes, and to advance the culture of the society that surrounds it.
Marcel Khalife's compositions have been performed by several orchestras, notably the Kiev Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of Boulogne Billancourt Orchestra, The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the city of Tunis, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Italian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra and the Absolute Ensemble.
Khalife’s work has received critical acclaim both in the Arab World and around the world. His creativity, innovation and educational and humanitarian concerns, as well as his contribution to the promotion of arts and culture in the Arab world, has earned him numerous awards and citations. On his journey, Khalife invents and creates original music, a novel world of sound, free of all pre-established rules. This language elevates him to the level of an ambassador of his own culture and to the vanguard of Arabic music in search of innovators.
In June 2005 Marcel Khalife was named UNESCO Artist for Peace for his artistic achievement and humanitarian contributions. In 2008, Marcel Khalife was named the music director and the resident composer of the newly founded Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.