DOHA: Iconic Lebanese composer Marcel Khalife enthralled a Qatari audience with his Arab Spring-inspired suite “Oriental,” performed in the capital in collaboration with the Philharmonic Orchestra he helped set up in 2007. The concert late Sunday aimed “to echo the cries of the Arab people for freedom,” said the 62-year-old musician, whose latest work brings together tunes from classical Iraqi maqam, mixed with others from the Levant, North Africa, Egypt and Andalusia.
“There is much happiness” in “Oriental,” Khalife told AFP, “echoing the cries of ordinary Arab people, which had been suppressed for [some] 50 years before they took to the streets to demand freedom.”
The Leipzig Radio Choir sang in Arabic accompanied by the Qatari orchestra at the Doha opera house in the city’s Katara Cultural Village.
Following his father’s footsteps, Khalife’s 31-year-old son Rami – a noted composer and performer in his own right – presented a requiem, inspired by the violence that continues to shake the Middle East and North Africa.
“The large amount of death around us, especially in Syria and Arab Spring countries and the whole world inspired me to compose this requiem,” said Rami Khalife, who played the harpsichord accompanied by chants from Korean soprano Whal Ran Seo.
For Marcel Khalife, a leftist since youth, the two requiem and the suite are “complementary.”
The aspiration of Arabs to freedom is “an irrevocable process which will move ahead despite the obstacles of extremism and sectarianism,” he said, adding that “difficult years are ahead.”
Khalife played an important role in the establishment of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in 2007. It features 101 musicians from 30 countries but none from the Gulf state itself.
The creation of the orchestra is part of efforts by gas-rich Qatar to become a cultural hub in the Gulf.