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

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

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.