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Gilead Media Music Festival - Oshkosh, WI

On Sunday, I drove 90 miles north of Milwaukee to the Electric Lounge in Oshkosh for day two of the inaugural Gilead Media Music Festival.  Based in Oshkosh, Gilead Media ( run by Adam Bartlett, is a label that specializes in heavy, heavy music and the fest featured many of the bands the label has released.  The first thing one observes when entering the hall was the abundance of merchandise available for sale.  Vinyl is definitely the medium of choice when it comes to extreme or black metal.  The first band I saw went on at 1:30pm.  I’ve got high-lights: (Detroit Bernie fans will understand the reference).  Baby Boy, from New Orleans, featured heavy hooky rhythms, in the AmRep style of crunching guitars but with screaming vocals added.  These were 3 minute metal attacks, get in/get out.  Twenty ear-shattering minutes later, they were done.  One band in, I’m already exhausted.  Sleepwalker plays dark, slow, plodding black metal.  Their set included big riffs, insane screaming, and the heaviest drummer I have ever seen.  This is scary stuff, indeed.  From Milwaukee, Northless play a slow, pounding, methodical kick to the head, but with understandable vocals and a heavy as hell melody.  Featuring songs from their latest release, Clandestine Abuse, Northless whipped the crowds into a frenzy, the entire crowd head bobbing in unison.  The Body, a two piece, use found sound samples, sludgy, low guttural riffs and an ungodly high pitched scream that shook the entire room and probably scared every dog within ten miles of the venue.  False, featuring perhaps the scariest singer of all black metal bands, playing the most intense, abrasive, and relentless hell ride I have heard.  This was bone crushing and quite honestly scared me a little.  I’m not sure how they can keep up that intensity for thirty minutes.  Leaving with my new vinyl and t-shirts, I thought of what Erik Stenglein of Northless said about the festival, “there were no shitty bands at this festival”.  Thanks to Adam and Gilead Media for putting it on and possibly to another next year.

Album Review: The Black Seeds "Dust and Dirt"

Reggae from New Zealand does not seem to make sense to any degree. It’s difficult to picture a group of pasty, gingers (sorry terrible stereotype!)  laying down the reggae vibes in the mountainous terrain of New Zealand. However, The Black Seeds have been doing it for years and on their latest they add a bit of funk and disco to the equation to produce a hybrid of reggae that defies any cultural or continental boundaries. “Dust and Dirt” is the fifth release from The Black Seeds and it expertly shows their ease of grooving into reggae territory with easy flowing songs that are also brimming with danger and introspection. Some of the standout cuts include “Wide Open” and the opener “Out of Light” which reminds me of Shriekback’s slower material.  Later “Loose Cartilage” rocks out with a guitar heavy beginning that spills into a righteous instrumental jam.  As we ease into a season filled with warmer weather and road tripping, hiking or long walks, “Dust and Dirt” will make a fine travelling companion.
I can’t end this review without mentioning, Bret Mckenzie, from Flight of the Conchords (the other one - not Jermaine Clement), was once a member of the Black Seeds.

This Post by Mikel O.D. of

TALL KIWI CHICK was a winner in one of our contests for free tickets
and of course we chatted it up a bit and met up with her and her crew at the show.
After knocking back a few cold ones we were fast friends and thick as thieves.
We convinced her to report for MCB and she was running hard
but all good things come to an end and she had to head back to New Zealand.
She will be chiming in from time to time because we miss her!
She loves music, men & drinking.
"She's Sweet As!"
BY Tall Kiwi Chick

I am back on MCB...What's Up Bitches?!

STOP! Listen to this song real quick:

May is New Zealand Music Month. So you have no idea how proud I am to be here writing about one of New Zealand's coolest bands! Here in New Zealand, The Black Seeds are a household name for anyone under 40 who doesn't live under a rock. They've been around for 12 years, and have just released their 5th album which is available worldwide!!

Dust And Dirt is the fifth studio album from our multi-platinum selling group whose unique brand of reggae-funk fusion has seen their fan base spread around the world in recent years.

Song Pippy Pip, also on Dust And Dirt, offered fans a rare opportunity to become part of The Black Seeds' history. By following instructions on a YouTube video, budding musicians were able to send in their own vocal samples. Most of the 90-odd entries can be heard, in some form, at the end of the track.

Check out the video here:

Now I know I'm here to talk about how awesome their new album 'DUST & DIRT' is... But hell, I want you all to start from the beginning!! These albums flew off the shelves here in nz when they were released.

'ON THE SUN' 2004

If you need more of a push to buy their music - Flight of The Conchords 'Bret Mckenzie' used to be a member for the first 5 years!  Check out this cool video clip of the making of one of their earlier music videos - featuring 'Brit' himself:

The Black Seeds mix well with hot days, cold beers, good mates, road trips, parties, BBQ's, and when mixed well you get good times.

Now if only I could get tickets to there Christchurch show later this month I'd be one happy chick....
MCB says they can get me an in person interview....and from my work in Detroit I believe them!

xxx see you in November !!!
- Tall Kiwi Chick
reporting from Christchurch NZ

UPCOMING: 5th Annual Rock and Rummage Spring Cleaning Spectacular on May 18 and 19 at the Painted Lady Lounge in Hamtramck

"Shop, Sell, Drink, and Rock" at The 5th annual Rock and Rummage Spring Cleaning Spectacular at The Painted Lady Lounge in Hamtramck on Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19.

Rock and Rummage is a traveling Rock and Roll themed flea market that brings shopping for vintage clothing, handmade goods and other pop culture objects into bars across the Detroit area.

It's time for spring cleaning and Rock and Rummage is going to have a bash to make all the work a little more fun !

Rock and Rummage, Detroit's long standing Rock and Roll inspired traveling flea market, promises to deliver the coolest one of a kind items your liable to run across this Spring . On Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19 Rock and Rummage is having their 5th annual Rock and Rummage Spring Cleaning Spectacular at the Painted Lady Lounge in Hamtramck.

Each night of the two day event will feature a variety of different vendors selling a vast array of items including records, vintage items, toys, comics, jewelry, art, buttons, clothing, books, retro collectibles, handmade goods, posters, DVD's, the kitsch debris of American pop culture, and many one of a kind treasures.

Shopping starts at 9PM each night and is FREE for persons 18 and over.

The Painted Lady Lounge is located at 2930 Jacob Street, Hamtramck, MI 48212 (313)874-2991

Please visit for more information.

Wild Bill Ketelhut provides the "blog" to this anti-blog

Wild At Heart

  This past weekend Rochester started its first annual Rochester Music Hall Of Fame. This corresponded to Detroit’s show which honored Suzi Quatro this year. I’m sure Detroit will have rock N rollers to honor until the end of time but we are not so lucky in that regard. This year we did induct the great Cab Calloway, guitarist Gene Cornish (of Rascals fame) and Joe English (drummer for Paul McCartney and Wings) but after that the rockers get kind of thin. We have the obvious choice of Foreigner’s Lou Gramm and the late Mitch Miller. After that, we have a small pool of interest with blues great Son House, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and a pair of wacky female artists with Lydia Lunch and Wendy O Williams (of the Plasmatics).

  Rochester’s musical claim to fame comes from being home to the Eastman School of Music which puts a definite classical/jazz influence on our musical heritage. Four of the 8 inductees (the last one was the Corinthian Concert Hall from the mid-1800’s and was noteworthy for having the best acoustics in the country at that time) were students/teachers at the Eastman School Of Music. The big name this year was Chuck Mangione who I actually share a bit of history with. My mother went to High School with him and was in band with him until he was kicked out. Years later, his first wife was the guidance counselor at my high school and I graduated with his youngest daughter Diana. Despite the divorce, Chuck kept a strong relationship with his kids which I have grown to truly appreciate as I got older. He came to the school a couple of times for events and he even flew in from Cleveland to play the National Anthem at our graduation ceremony. He also made sure to mention them in his acceptance speech last night. The funny thing is that Diana just started working for the same company as me so I got to deliver a message from him to his daughter since she had to leave early.

 me and Chuck Mangione

  The remainder of the class included flutist Doriot Anthony Dwyer (the first women to win a principal chair on a major US Orchestra when joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra), composer/trumpeter Jeff Tyzik (won a Grammy producing the Tonight Show Band w/Doc Severinsen) and composer/lyricist Charles Strouse (wrote songs for musicals “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Annie” as well as them from TV series “All In The Family”).

  The show lasted about 3 ½ hours and was filled with nice introductions for each of the inductees as well as some nice performances. Dwyer didn’t talk to the audience but played a beautiful flute piece accompanied by pianist Cherry Tsang. The other stand outs being Chuck Mangione’s set of "Land of Make Believe", "Bellavia" and “Feels So Good”, Charles Strouse’s five song set (started with “Grey Skies Are Going To Clear Up” after making a joke about Rochester weather and ending with a pair of Annie songs) and Felix Cavaliere joining Cornish on stage for a few Rascal’s numbers including “Good Lovin’”. Cecelia Calloway (Cab’s daughter) accepted for her father and did a rendition of “Minnie The Moocher” so while I never saw the man, it is nice seeing a family member on stage. The RIT Yellow Jackets, fresh off their appearance on “The Sing Off”, also did a nice grouping of songs of the inductees.

  The weird moment, for me, was Joe English who has found religion and while he no longer plays the drums, his does work for his church choir. He performed a spiritual song for the audience who would have probably have wished to hear a Wings tune. However, you got to give a guy credit for changing his life around and doing something meaningful. He talked about how his climb to the top of the music world left him feeling a void but he really enjoys his new life helping out kids in trouble from the local prisons and helping people in hospitals find peace.

  Family (and friends) was a nice theme throughout the night. When Cornish was on stage he had two empty chairs dedicated to his parents. Chuck mentioned he was performing for the first time in front of his youngest granddaughter and was joined on stage by his brother Gap. Tyzik recounted his close relationship with Chuck Mangione mentioning getting his degrees at Eastman but “I got my doctorate” playing six years with Chuck and “I needed a doctor when I was done”. English reminisced about how close the musical community was as he remembered buying candy and soda from a grocery store that was owned by Mangione’s father and would then go to a fishing store to buy worms that was owned by Cornish’s stepfather.

  All in all, it was a fun night and has me wondering about what I might have missed by not going to any of the Detroit Music Award shows. They just never seemed to work out for me to make it. Anyway, I’m not sure how successful this will be but I do hope it continues on and it will be interesting to see who gets nominated in years to come and if they will ever have a hall dedicated to the honorees. I think they should do something on the U of R campus or at the Eastman Theatre itself. It is such a big building, I’m sure they could find some place for a small museum dedicated to Hall inductees.

Thinking of all that good music has me thinking of shows to recommend this week:

Tuesday (5/01) – Blue Man Group @ Fisher Theatre

Wednesday (5/02) – Wishbone Ash @ Callahans , Blue Man Group @ Fisher Theatre

Thursday (5/03) – Pop Evil @ Emerald Theatre, Blue Man Group @ Fisher Theatre

Friday (5/04) – Joanne Shaw Taylor @ Callahans, Spiritualized @ The Majestic, Dewtons @ Magic Stick, Blue Man Group @ Fisher Theatre

Saturday (5/05) – Weird Al Yankovic @ Fox Theatre, the Muggs open for Cactus @ Magic Bag, Trivium @ Machine Shop, Sponge @ Tequila Blue (Royal Oak) Blue Man Group @ Fisher Theatre

Sunday (5/06) – Blue Man Group @ Fisher Theatre

Monday (5/07) – Blue Man Group @ Fisher Theatre

   I saw the Blue Man Group twice in Detroit at Pine Knob and they were both amazing shows. The first time was as an opener with Moby’s Area 1 Tour with David Bowie, Ash, Carl Cox and a few others. The second time was as an headliner with Tracy Bonham and Venus Hum (who are amazing also) so I thought I would include a song from that last set. If you have never experienced the Blue Man Group, you should definitely make an effort to get to the Fisher Theatre when you have the opportunity.

I also did a daytrip to Syracuse to see Daughtry with some free tickets I won on a local radio station. I checked out the local Science Museum to waste some time which was just OK. The place is really designed more for kids with a lot of activities based around airplanes, the human body and geology. Next time I’ll go to the Boxing Hall Of fame or something. Outside the museum though they do have a monument dedicated to the 24 second clock. It first came to use in 1954 in Syracuse, New York, where Danny Biasone, the owner of the NBA's Syracuse Nationals, experimented using a 24-second version during a scrimmage game to try and prevent boring games where a team with the lead would just stall for minutes at a time. He wanted to quicken the pace so calculated how many shots were being taken during a close match up and came up with 24 seconds. He put it into place during a scrimmage game and later got the NBA to adopt it, thus saving the NBA from boring games (maybe). Funny enough, the Washington Nationals won the NBA title the first year the clock was in use in 1955. 24 Second Shot Clock Syracuse MOST in Syracuse trains at MOST, Syracuse


Detroit Public Schools' Art Exhibit at The Detroit Institute of Arts

"Snazzy is as Snazzy Does!"
Gwen Joy is an artist who specializes in colorful folk art paintings. 
Life experience is her subject matter which is translated in a lyrical/mythical fashion.
Follow Gwen's snazzy street reviews weekly here on MCB
                                                                                       Reach her directly at

   The 75th Annual Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition opened publicly this Saturday and will be open until June 3rd.  The show is sponsored by Charter One Bank who presented Burns Elementary with a Core Values of Citzenship Award for their stunning submission. The piece is pictured after the Imagination is Spelled Art painting which welcomes you to this spirited and tremendously varied showing of art grades K - 12. Thirty two schools participated and 325 out of 800 submitted pieces were chosen. Paintings, drawings, media media, fashion design, three dimensional objects, and jewelry are displayed. Historical figures like Thurgood Marshall and Albert Einstein are paid tribute. A few pieces document the recent Travon Martin shooting.

   As evidenced by this exhibition creativity and talent is very much alive in Detroit. If you are interested in purchasing a piece please contact the artist's school. Noteworthy designers, musicians and artists have shown their work in this very exhibit. Tracy Reese, a fashion designer who designed the pink lace dress Michelle Obama wore on a People Magazine cover is counted among the alumni.

Rock and Fashion at U Detroit Cafe on 4/26 and The Best of Detroit Metro Times party 4/27

"Snazzy is as Snazzy Does!"
Gwen Joy is an artist who specializes in colorful folk art paintings. 
Life experience is her subject matter which is translated in a lyrical/mythical fashion.
Follow Gwen's snazzy street reviews weekly here on MCB
                                                                                    Reach her directly at

    Every Thursday night from 9 pm to 11 pm John Gnotek and Danny D, a local Rod Stewart impersonator host a live web broadcast show called Rock and Fashion. The show occurs at U Detroit Cafe in the Harmonie Park area of downtown Detroit. Expect a fun and unique lineup and a relaxed and free flowing vibe. Live painting, dynamic musical performances, and non profit speakers have been highlights of these shows. Last Thursday charismatic artist, musician, designer, and performance artist Ziam Penn sang some tunes and did a fabulous liquid silver fashion show. His liquid silver show is an over 10 year running fun and funky urban fashion show. Expect to see a ton of sequins, metallics, and a rad Prince meets Grace Jones vibe. Off the hook fun! He will be doing another fashion show at The Charles Wright Museum on May 5th. A mix of hip hop performers rounded out the night. I painted a painting amongst the festivities. Almost every show featuring some kind of live painting and often money is raised for a charity. Check out Danny D's website at and John Gnotek's website at

    Friday I went to the Metro Times Best of Detroit party which was held at the Soundboard of the Motorcity Casino. A mix of journalists, business owners, artists, and musicians mingled at this swanky yet chill party. Never thought I'd see marshmellow covered bacon or a buffalo chicken cone. Its rad to see something fresh and new. Buddy's pizza hit the spot like always. Other bars and restaurants to offer some delicious food and drinks included Café Sushi, The Henry Ford (Food Service/Catering), Lockhart’s BBQ, Lucky Stike, MotorCity Casino Hotel, One-Eyed Betty’s, Peteet’s Famous Cheesecakes, Small Plates,Treat Dreams, Finlandia Vodka, Jack Daniels Whiskey, Southern Comfort, el Jimador Tequila, Herradura Tequila, Miller Lite Beer, Sam Adams Boston Lager and Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. A photo booth and an upbeat dance floor were fun after dinner opportunities.


Health Reform Explained Video: "Health Reform Hits Main Street"

Wild Bill Ketelhut provides the "blog" to this anti-blog

Wild At Heart
With all my parents medical concerns, I occasionally get to go to some interesting functions and learn some interesting information. We went to a nice dinner sponsored by the Caring Voice Coalition which helps out people with medical problems to figure out how to afford medications or find help for their conditions. They brought out this fun cartoon by the Kaiser Family Foundation which is a great primer for anyone trying to figure out what is going to happen in 2014 with regards to health care costs. Check it out.


"Boy" movie review opens April 27th at Main Art Theatre

Wild Bill Ketelhut provides the "blog" to this anti-blog

Wild At Heart

The film ‘Boy’ is a New Zealand film which was Taika Waititi’s second feature film though he achieved some success with his 2003 Academy Award nominated short film “Two Cars, One Night”. The film debuted at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and got nominated for the Grand Jury Prize which is usually a good sign for a film. Waititi is also known in his native country as a comedian, writer, painter and actor (he was seen by audiences as the character Thomas Kalmaku in the live-action superhero film, “Green Lantern”).

  The film ‘Boy’ is set in Waihau Bay, New Zealand in the year 1984 where we meet our main character, an 11 year old who lives on a farm in a poverty stricken area with his Gran, his younger brother Rocky, several cousins and a goat (named Leaf). Boy is also a fan of Michael Jackson. He is a typical kid who has a crush on an older girl he fails to impress and deals with a lot of the regular issues kids deal with. He is also hopeful to someday meet his father, Alamein (played by Waititi), who he idolizes into a heroic image. When his Gran leaves for a week to attend a funeral his father shows up with members of his gang in search of a bag of money he buried years before.

  Alamein does not quite live up to the boy’s expectation as we find the man at times incompetent and while he seems overly focused on the money, we do have some moments when he truly bonds with his son. What sets this movie apart from similar films are the interludes of fantasy as we see little mini-movies interspersed throughout the film such as a tribute to Michael Jackson’s Eat It” with the father playing the Jackson role to correspond to a fight he has with a gang of bikers and his gang (of course the real fight doesn’t work out as well as the fantasy fight). These moments play with the Boy’s view of his dad which are heroic but once the dad arrives, we can see changes to the imaginative narrative that works itself through the Boy’s and perhaps his father’s eyes.

The film’s story is very basic but we get caught up in the Boy’s quest for his father/image of his father and find it hard not to become invested in the characters and hope that they will become a family again. The boy is idealistic while the father is bumbling (though not so over the top to fall into Stooges territory). This is a film which could have easily been forgotten but manages to come alive and not only entertain but address some of the real issues of family (domestic responsibility) and society (drugs, gangs) without being preachy.

  I think “Boy”, despite it’s simple, yet universal title, will be a pleasant surprise for anyone thinking of checking it out at the theatre. It starts today at the Main Art Theatre in Royal oak so check out their website ( for movie times.

I give “Boy” an A-.

"Snazzy is as Snazzy Does!"
Gwen Joy is an artist who specializes in colorful folk art paintings. 
Life experience is her subject matter which is translated in a lyrical/mythical fashion.
Follow Gwen's snazzy street reviews weekly here on MCB
Reach her directly at

2 SHOWS: SATORI CIRCUS on the Move at 1515 Broadway Detroit - Fri/Sat 4/27/28

SATORI CIRCUS @1515 Broadway in 'Twilight Barks' and 'UMBRA' w/sg Chantal & Amber, April 27 & 28
- two new performance art pieces...short one acts...experimental and dark. Both are very similar in their cadence and tone. 'Twilight Barks' is takes you on a journey of a person's downward spiral, while being hammered by their dreams, desires and the search for who and what they are. And 'UMBRA' concerns itself with memory and dreams. How the silent workings of a mind can lead you or distract you; enlighten you or betray you. In this performance art piece SC has some very special guests, Chantal and Amber. Both of these young ladies are multi-talented and are well known for their dancing and aerial work with groups such as Detroit Fire Guild and Torch with a Twist.

Grand Re-opening of the Tangent Gallery and Hasting Street Ballroom, April 27, 28 and 29
SC will be there after his performance at 1515 Broadway to shake his tail feathers...only on Friday the 27th.

The Tickled Fancy Burlesque Company, May 4th at Woodruff's
- Again SC will be performing with some dear friends and wonderfully talented Ladies...

Benefit for Val Valentine May 12 2012 - Late Show @the Park Bar
SC will be performing with some of Detroit's finest Burlesquers, all for a worthy cause the lady's who started it all.

May 18 & 19, SC has the ultimate pleasure of curating an exhibition for River's Edge Gallery, in Wyandotte. Titled 'Language'.

21st Annual Detroit Music Awards TONIGHT

The Fillmore Detroit 
Doors: 6:00 PM
Show: 7:00 PM 
2115 Woodward
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 961-5451


Fiona Apple : New album + Detroit tour stop July 7th

After almost 7 years of silence from Fiona Apple, she is set to release a new album on June 19th.  True to Fiona Apple long-poetic-album-titling, the latest is: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do 

Have a listen for yourself as
Apple released a free listen to "Every Single Night" through Soundcloud
It's melodic, melancholic, poetic and angsty... sigh of releif, Fiona's Free

Luckily, she will be rolling through the D on July 7th, playing at the Fillmore.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10am...

Snazzy is as Snazzy Does by Gwen Joy

"Snazzy is as Snazzy Does!"
Gwen Joy is an artist who specializes in colorful folk art paintings. 
Life experience is her subject matter which is translated in a lyrical/mythical fashion.
Follow Gwen's snazzy street reviews weekly here on MCB
Reach her directly at

Tomorrow Night! Go Mod: Michigan Modernism Preview Party @ Southfield Civic Center

John D bistro Live Music Series TONIGHT: Sin Heilo wsg percussionists


Sin Hielo is Detroit heavy-hitter guitarists 
Wayne Gerard & Sean Blackman

 John D Bistro, the newest addition to the "9 & Woodward Corridor", kicks off
Live Music Series Every Thurs

SIN HIELO is Wayne Gerard & Sean Blackman
 wsg percussionists 9:30p-12:30a

more about John D - In the course of history, each city and era had a place where interesting people would gather. These saloons, pubs, bistros, and bars forever became places where history was made. London, St. Petersburg, Paris, Warsaw... Liberal arts pioneers, forward thinkers, creatives, musicians and writers would gather over food and drinks to exchange ideas, debate, drink, and enjoy. If you are one of these people and if your time is now, John D is your place.

FREE CD: Fall of the Moon - Marcel Khalifé - Music Hall Detroit - Fri 4/27

MCB has a double CD to giveaway from Marcel Khalifé who plays a show at Music Hall Detroit this Friday night (tomorrow) - email for your shot to win and get to this show!
Music Hall
350 Madison Street
Doors Open: 7:00 pm, Show: 8:00 pm
Have a listen here

The poetry of Palestine, the melodies of Lebanon. Uniting across, national, ethnic and religious lines, resounding above the din of bitter politics, rockets, poverty. Singing instead of the shade of grapevines, the bright eyes of loved ones, the heartache of divisions and decline that could be healed, love that could be returned.  

Marcel Khalifé
, Lebanese master of the oud (lute), evokes this world, honoring the spirit of his late friend and collaborator Mahmoud Darwish, a strikingly original poet born in Galilee.  Khalifé's oud trembles, rumbles, sighs, and resonates beyond cultural specificities. Too often compared to Bob Dylan because of his firm counter-mainstream stance, Khalifé's work can shift between the sweet melodic sensibility of Cole Porter and the gravitas of the best of Western chamber music, between the heady daring of jazz experimenters and rock defiance.

Now, as protesters rally in the streets across the
Middle East, they sing his songs. Khalifé has come out as an ardent supporter of the Arab Spring. "I sang for them," Khalifé explained in a recent statement protesting government crackdowns on protesters in Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt , Syria and across the Arab world, "and they gave me the feeling that they were my kin, that they were the source of strength to bring about the impossible."

Khalifé has translated his profound sense of kinship with his fellow Arabs and with humanity writ large into stirring, eloquent music on
Fall of the Moon (Nagam Records; U.S. release: April 9, 2012). Revisiting some of his earliest engagement with the words of the late exiled and revered Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, Khalifé once again turns personal loss, alienation, and love into a universal, soulful call.

American audiences will have a chance to heed and relish this call as Khalifé and the Al Mayadine Ensemble—including premiere female vocalist
Oumaima Khalil, pianist Rami Khalifé, and Bachar Khalifé on percussion—tour the U.S. this spring, beginning with a gala concert in Houston, where Darwish passed away in 2008 and including performances in Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, and Washington, DC.

"On the stage, I'm in my natural milieu, saying what I want," Khalifé states. "There's no censorship of what I say."

It began with a young man, confined by war and persecution to his home in Lebanon, awestruck by the raw, eloquent words of a Palestinian poet. He picked up his oud and restlessly plucked out pieces that would go on to shake the Arab world.

The connection to Darwish began the first moment Khalifé opened one of his early books of poems. Over three decades, it evolved into a bosom collaboration that was more than the sum of its parts. "Our respective corpora have grown to be reminiscent of each other, so that the name of each of the twain, instantly and without reflection, would evoke the name of the other," Khalifé reflects. "Even before we got to know each other personally, I felt as though Darwish's poetry, with its divine assertiveness and prophetic cadences, had been revealed to me and for me."

The feeling was mutual: Darwish often referred to Khalifé as his "heart's artistic twin." Though from different countries and religious backgrounds, both artists shared a sense of desperation about the state of their homelands and the world. From the beginning of his musical life, Khalifé has sought to restore the neglected beauty and adventuresome roots of Arab musical culture, founding a groundbreaking ensemble in his home village, teaching a new generation of musicians, and composing pieces that redefine the music of the region.

Khalifé takes traditions and transforms them according to new, yet deeply appropriate rules: While the text dictates the tenor and shape of his pieces, the music retains an edge of the avant garde. In the free-flowing bittersweet sweep of pieces like "In Exile," pensiv
e vocals intertwine with hints of jazz ballads and classical lieder, mirroring the haunting journey of Darwish's words through sorrow, reflection, and joy despite mortality: "And tell absence: You lack me/ yet I am present…to make you whole."

Both Darwish and Khalifé sought elevation through technical mastery and passionate honesty beyond the morass of politics, into the realm of the human, the vitally connected. Darwish's complicated life of activism, exile, imprisonment, and marginalization did not prevent him from producing stunning poems that chronicled his travails with a freshness and precision similar to Khalifé's musical approaches.

"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," Darwish explained in a statement before his passing in 2008. "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 ."

Together, these two iconic figures of contemporary Arab art and culture achieved one of Khalifé's life-long goals: to give voice to the voiceless. His art has won him recognition from UNESCO, who declared Khalifé an Artist for Peace in 2005. It has been featured on the world's most prestigious stages and in major feature films like 2007's Rendition. In a newly awakened Middle East, Khalifé's works continue to inspire and transform, reminding singers and listeners of their innate humanity and dignity.

"Music is my oxygen," Khalifé told Democracy Now host Amy Goodman in an interview.  "Without it, I feel life is lacking something. I wish that these politicians who control the world would listen to a tune before they go to bed. Perhaps then, instead of declaring war, they would declare love."