Fall of the Moon

by Marcel Khalife

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There is perhaps no parallel in our modern
times to the artistic bond between Marcel
Khalife and Mahmoud Darwish. It is rare
that a celebrated musician is the twin
manifestation of a great contemporary
poet. Khalife's deep reading of Darwish's
poetry lasted over the four decades of the
poet's life. If an author's dream is to have
one true reader, Darwish found a special
one in Marcel. Marcel heard the modern
Arabic poem as sung speech in a manner
that illuminated the contemporary Arabic
song's ability to embrace rhythm and
phrase within new horizons. His music and
song are "bread for speech," as Darwish
called them, that evaporate the mirage
which often exists between modern poem
and song, in an age where the poem is
wary of public consumption. Darwish and
Marcel shared an exalted belief that, while
it can, art does not dance alone.

Two fiercely independent artists: Marcel
never asked Darwish permission to
compose his poems to music, and Darwish
never asked Marcel to put his poems into
song, nor wrote any of them with that in
mind. And just as Darwish's poem never
ceased developing over the decades, Marcel
Khalife's music kept on transforming:
from the intensely lyrical and committed
to the conversational and introspective;
from the traditional and classical Arabic
song, from the untranslatable and deeply
palpable "Tarab," to the innovative open
music of the jazzy and the cinematic. The
lyrics included here span nearly all forty
years of Darwish's poetry. The progressive
arc of the poet's transformation is easy to
recognize. Similarly the listener will easily
distinguish Khalife's multiple rebirths and
returns. And as music and song are also
an idea of translation, lyrics also are. Some
of the poems here are excerpts of their
original whole, seamlessly sliced and then
spliced by Marcel Khalife: the text becomes
music's subject, just as music becomes
subject to the text.

-Fady Joudah (a Palestinian American poet and winner of the PEN prize for his translations of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry)


released April 9, 2012

Marcel Khalife: composer, oud, vocals
Mahmoud Darwish: poetry

Al Mayadine Ensemble

Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Vladimir Sirinko

Oumaima Khalil: vocals
Yolla Khalife: vocals
Rami Khalife: piano
Bachar Khalife: percussion
Peter Herbert: double bass
Mark Helias: double bass
Ismail Lumanovski: clarinet
Anthony Millet: accordian
Fabio Presgrave: cello
Mahmoud Tourkmani: guitar

Mixing: Skip Burrows, Sunrise Sound Recording, Houston, TX
Mastering: Alexis Bardinet, Globe Audio Mastering, Bordeaux, France

Cover Design: Emile Menhem
Layout Design: Rita Sayegh/Constructure
Fady Joudah: English translation of poems

Producer/Publisher: Nagam Records
Copyrights: Nagam Records, Inc. (2012)



all rights reserved


Marcel Khalife Houston, Texas

Marcel Khalifé is a composer, Oud master & performer. Marcel's creativity, innovations, and humanitarian concerns along with contributions to the promotion of arts and Culture in the Arab world has earned him tens of awards in the Arab World and Internationally. ... more

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Track Name: The Pigeons Fly
The pigeons fly
the pigeons descend

Prepare the land for me so I can rest
because I love you until I'm weary...
Your morning is fruit from song
and this evening's made of gold
And we are ours
when a shadow enters its shadow in marble,
and when I hang myself it is myself I resemble
on a neck that embraces only clouds.
You are the air undressing before me like
tears of grapes,
you are the start of a family of waves
gripping the shore and estranging itself,
and I love you, you're my soul's beginning
and you're the end

The pigeons fly
the pigeons descend
Track Name: And We Love Life
And we love life if we find a way to it.
We dance between two martyrs
and we raise a minaret for violet or palm trees.

We love life if we find a way to it.

And we steal from the silkworm a thread
to build a sky and fence-in this departure.
We open the garden gate for the jasmine
to go out as a beautiful day on the streets.

We love life if we find a way to it.

And we plant, where we settle, some fast
growing plants, and harvest the dead.
We play on the flute the color of the faraway
and sketch over the dirt corridor a neigh.
We write our names one stone at a time,
O lightning make the night a bit clearer.
We love life if we find a way to it...
Track Name: Oh, My Proud Wound
Oh, my proud wound
my land isn't a suitcase
and I'm not a traveler
I'm a lover
and my beloved's the land
Track Name: Mohammad
Mohammed nests in his father's lap
a bird terrified
of the hell in the sky
"Father, protect me
from flying
up in the air
my wings are small for the wind
and light is black"

He wants to go home
without a bike
or a new shirt,
he wants to go to his school chair
to grammar period
"Father, take me home
so I could do my homework
and live my life bit by bit
on the seashore
under palm trees"
but nothing is farther than this.
Track Name: Houriyeh's Instructions
I thought one day of leaving, but a sparrow
landedon her hand and slept. It was enough
that I fondle a grapevine in a hurry for her to
know I was filled with wine. It was enough
that I go early to bed for her to clearly see
mysleep, and extend her night to guard it.
Enough for her to know my days hover
around her and in her view.

My mother counts my twenty digits from
afar. She combs me with her golden lock and
searches in my underwear for foreign women,
and darns the hole in my sock. I didn't grow
up on her hands as we had wished: she and
I, we parted ways by the marble slope, clouds
loomed over us, and over some goats
that inherit the place.

There is no time around you, mother, for sen-
timental talk. You knead the afternoon with
basil and bake for sumac the rooster's crest. I
know what wrecks your punctured peacock
heart since you've been expelled twice from
paradise. Our entire world changed, so our
voices also changed. Even the greeting
between us fell like a button over the sand,
echoless. Say: Good morning! Say anything
for life to grant me her dalliance.

We meet only as farewell at the crossroads
of speech. For example, she says to me:
Marry any stranger more beautiful than the
neighborhood girls, and believe no woman
but me. And don't burn to illuminate your
mother, that's her lovely task. Don't long for a
rendezvous with the dew. Be realistic like the
sky. And dash like a colt into life. And be who
you are wherever you are. And carry no more
than your heart's burden.

My mother lights up Canaan's final stars
and tosses her shawl in my final poem!
Track Name: Now, In Exile
Now, in exile... yes, in the house,
in the sixties of a swift age
they blow out the candles for you.

Rejoice, but with utmost calmness,
because a reckless death has lost its way
in the heavy crowds... and deferred you.

A curious moon on the ruins
laughs like a buffoon. Don't believe that
it approaches to accept you.

It has, in its ancient task, as the new
March has, given back to the trees
the names of longing and ignored you.

So celebrate with your friends the shattered
chalice. At sixty, you won't have the remain-
ing tomorrow to carry on the shoulders of
anthem, and it won't carry you.

Tell life: Walk leisurely as women confident
of their magic and schemes walk. Each one
has a hidden call: I am yours / how beautiful
you are.

Walk leisurely, life, so I can see all of your
around me. I have often forgotten you in
your vastness

while looking for me and you

And whenever I realized one of your secrets
you callously said: How ignorant you are!

And tell absence: You lack me,
yet I am present... to make you whole.
Track Name: A Song on My Mind
There's a song on my mind,
about my country,
why don't you sleep
so I can write it

I saw your body
carried in chains
and leaking colors,
so I said to them: my body
is over there!
But they blocked the road
to the town center

We were young,
trees were high,
you were prettier than my mother
and my country

Where did they come from
when your folk and mine were the ones
who fenced the almond grove
with toil and thorn!

We think of life
in a hurry
we barely see
anyone grieving another.

Your body was dispossessed
when my mouth
was toying with a fresh honey drop
that had settled
on my muddy hand.

There's a song on my mind,
about my country,
why don't you sleep
so I can tattoo it on my flesh.
Track Name: Remember
Remember yourself
to grow older,
forget the dust
Remember remember
your ten toes, forget the shoes
Remember your facial features
forget winter's fog
Remember your name
and your mother,
forget the alphabet,
Remember your country
forget the firmament
Remember remember!
Track Name: Her Eyes
Two eyes lost in color. Green before grass
is green. Blue before dawn is blue. They
mimic water's color, then dart a hazel look
toward the lake and turn it green.
The widen when stars stroll on the roof,
constrict in love's bed. They open to receive
a dream that glimmers in the night's lids,
and close to receive honey that pours from a
beehive. They lift poplars and willows higher.
And escape from mirrors that are too narrow
for them. They are who they are at night,
two mirrors of my unknown fate.
Two eyes, clear, cloudy, truthful, liars,
her eyes.
Track Name: The Poem of the Land
You who are heading to a wheat grain's
cradle plow my body
You who are heading to the mountain of fire
pass over my body
You who pass over my body
will not pass
I am the land in a body
you will not pass
I am the wakeful land
you will not pass
I am the land
you who pass over the wakeful land
will not pass
you won't pass
you won't pass
Track Name: The Most Beautiful Love
As grass sprouts in the joints of a stone
as two strangers we came to be
when the spring sky was authoring stars
and I was composing a phrase of love
to sing for your eyes

Do your eyes know that I've waited a long
as a summer bird waits?
And that I've slept as an emigrant sleeps
with one eye resting
for the other to remain awake?

We're two friends
so walk beside me hand in hand
together we'll bake bread and write songs
we are lovers until the moon sleeps

I love you as caravans love an oasis
some water and grass
and as a poor man loves a loaf of bread.
We'll always stay friends
Track Name: In Damascus
In Damascus
the doves fly
behind the silk fence
two by two

In Damascus
I see all of my language
written with a woman's needle
on a grain of wheat
edited by the partridge
of the Mesopotamian rivers

In Damascus
dialogue goes on
between the violin and the oud,
and about the endings:
whenever a woman kills a passing lover
she attains the Lotus Tree of Heaven!

In Damascus
a gazelle sleeps next to a woman
in a bed of dew,
the woman takes off her dress
and covers Barada with it!

In Damascus
a bird picks
at what is left of wheat
in my palm
and leaves for me a single grain
to show me my tomorrow

In Damascus
the jasmine dallies with me:
Don't go far,
follow my tracks.
The garden becomes jealous:
Don't come near
the blood of night in my moon

In Damascus
I count my ribs
and return my heart to its trot,
perhaps the one who granted me entry
to her shadow
has killed me
and I didn't notice

In Damascus
I write in a woman's journal:
All that's in you
of narcissus
desires you
and no fence, around you, protects you
from your night's excess allure

In Damascus
the traveler sings to himself:
I return from Syria
neither alive
nor dead
but as clouds
that ease the butterfly's burden
from my fugitive soul