Interview with the King of Rai: Cheb Khaled’s fervent homage to Beirut

Algerian singer and musician Cheb Khaled has released a brand new song in tribute to Beirut in the wake of the devastating explosion in the city. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 September 2020

Interview with the King of Rai: Cheb Khaled’s fervent homage to Beirut

  • Funds generated from new song will be donated to the Lebanese Red Cross
  • Negotiating with Lebanese government possibility of organizing a big concert

PARIS: Algerian singer and musician Cheb Khaled has released a brand new song in tribute to Beirut in the wake of the devastating explosion in the city on August 4 and which claimed the life of at least 171 people.

In solidarity with the Lebanese people, Cheb Khaled said that the money generated from his new song — titled “Elle S’appelle Beyrouth” (Her Name Is Beirut) — and its music video will be donated to the Lebanese Red Cross.

The single and music video were released on August 18, two weeks to the day after the terrible explosion hit Beirut.

Q. You have teamed up with the Lebanese musician Rodge whose studio has been hit by the huge blast of the explosion. Tell us about this cri du cœur...

A. I discovered the disaster while watching television with my children. I wondered what I could do to help. We then contacted Rodge, whom I had met on the set of a music video in Beirut four years ago. We finished this title in four days. First, he sent me several beats and then we remotely built the song together.

For the lyrics, I collaborated with an Algerian poet living in Paris. One can achieve a lot through the twists of fate. We really worked everything together getting close as a family in our support of Beirut.

Q. What does Beirut mean to you?

A. When I was young, I dreamed of going to Beirut, which is considered by us Arabs as the Las Vegas of the Middle East. It was the city of cinema, joy and culture. I have seen many black and white films, including Egyptian films, filmed in Beirut.

I was first invited to Lebanon, a country I wished so much to visit, in 1993. The war just ended and the city was shedding off slowly the damages inflicted by the war, still apparent to the eye. I ended up in a recording studio in the fifth basement, but fell in love with the people!

Q. What do you like about them?

A. I have seen a people with the will to live, a people similar to mine in Algeria. My mother used to say, if you do not have the strength to kill your enemy, kill him with a smile. Despite everything they have been through, I have encountered a lot of joy. Quite a resilient people.

Q. Do you confirm that all profits will be donated to the Lebanese Red Cross?

A. We have renounced all rights and all the benefits will be donated in full to the Lebanese Red Cross.

Q. Do you follow the situation on the ground?

A. Of course I do. I see people protesting peacefully, which is great. I believe Algerians have paved the way for them in this regard. It is different from the Yellow Jackets, although I do respect that...

People now understand that when someone wants to defend their rights, there are always parasites and thieves aiming to ruin and break things thus not allowing the message to pass. However, the Lebanese, like the Algerians, are demonstrating peacefully, calmly, and against the stupidity of man.

Q. Will we see you again on stage soon or is it difficult because of the health crisis?

A. We are in the process of negotiating with the Lebanese the possibility of organizing a big concert soon, alongside the location where the disaster took place. We are actively looking for sponsors and would like to invite all interested artists, from Lebanon, France and other places. I hope our dream will come true.


Gerard Butler talks family and high-octane action films

Updated 30 September 2020

Gerard Butler talks family and high-octane action films

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood’s latest disaster movie offering, “Greenland,” sees humanity threatened by a comet on a collision course with Earth — Arab News sat down with stars Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin to find out more about the high-octane film.

While many disaster movies focus on experts in big-picture attempts to stop the disaster, “Greenland” keeps the stakes personal by following the Garrity family as they journey to find shelter before it’s too late.

“This story is so relatable because this guy, he’s not a Secret Service agent. He’s not a superhero,” Butler said of his character, John Garrity. “He’s just a dad and he’s not even a perfect dad.”

“Greenland” follows the Garrity family as they journey to find shelter before it’s too late. Supplied

As meteorites decimate cities and people give in to panic, the estranged Garrity family grows closer, mirroring Butler’s real-life relationships with his parents, who despite having not seen him in months due to COVID-19 restrictions, are still just as doting as ever. 

“It’s very sweet that they still care and you’re still their little boy,” Butler said, adding that he mined his relationship with his parents for insight on how to play a caring father. “That definitely helped me in the role, to play that father who will do anything in these trying times to try and protect his family in the midst of this craziness.”

The film was directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Supplied

And while their characters were growing closer, the actors formed a tight knit group as well. Co-star Morena Baccarin told Arab News that she coached and comforted the actor playing the family’s young son — Roger Dale Flloyd — and that she and Butler became good friends on set.

“There are days where you’re just so tired and you’re not in the mood or you don’t want to put yourself through the ringer emotionally,” Baccarin — who plays estranged wife Allison Garrity — said, adding “we just could check in with each other and be there for each other and that was really nice.”

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, the film has faced repeated delays in the US, but has already hit the big screens in some international markets — including Saudi Arabia and the UAE — where COVID-19 regulations have been amended.