Following is a short promotional video for my book Coffee with Hezbollah, done by the book’s photographer, my traveling partner Amelia Opalińska. The video includes images of our hitchhiking journey through Lebanon in the aftermath of Israel’s 2006 assault and is set to the track “Coffee Trees” on the aptly named album “Arabic Coffeepot” by renowned Lebanese musician Marcel Khalifé.
Below the video is a description of Khalifé’s abilities by late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, kindly provided to me by Mustafa Habib of the Nagam Cultural Project, the institution that oversees Khalifé’s works.
I consider the music of Marcel Khalifé one of the few cultural phenomena contributing to [Arab] spiritual revival. When we exclude intellectual expression from the general collapse afflicting the Arab world, we are expressing a personal wish to defend a zone of the spirit that could not be overrun by tanks or solitude. With the heart closed, we are astonished to see a bird carry the sky on its shoulders. In the midst of destruction, the song of Marcel Khalifé rescues the heart. Its limited power is the power of life laying siege to question and answer. In Marcel’s song, we find those driven to death able to sing, creating a standard of truth marked by a freedom that had been lacking in lyrics and rhythm. The simple in us resolves the complex in consciousness and emotion. When reality sings with this simplicity, it opens an avenue for hope. In Marcel Khalifé’s song, lyrics are like bread: there is clear utilitarian aestheticism. For example, when I used to declare my love for my mother from prison neither she nor I realized the effectiveness of this confession until the song of Marcel Khalifé revealed this love to be more than just a personal relationship in a time of confinement. Marcel eliminated the gap created by the poets between poem and song. He restored to exiled emotion its rescuing power to reconcile poetry, which glorified its distance from people and was thus abandoned by them. Poetry, therefore, developed the song of Marcel Khalifé, while Khalifé’s song mended the relationship of poetry with people. With this, the people on the street started to sing, and lyrics need not a podium, as bread need not announce itself to the hungry.