Monday, July 11, 2016

The Smell and Taste of Music: Lemon by Bachar Mar-Khalifé

Can you smell and taste music?  You can if you watch the video for Bachar Mar-Khalifé's "Lemon" which is based on a romantic poem by Egyptian poet Samir Saady. Saady clearly knew that anyone with the good fortune of encountering a citrus tree dripping with fragrant blossoms couldn't deny that nature is the ultimate perfumer. This is evident in the poet's words, which are translated from Arabic to English:

by Samir Saady

The lemons are ripe on the tree
And whoever shakes the tree
after it has been watered by rain,
will fill his lap with lemons.

How beautiful you are, night of the moon
when my love appeared.
And whoever shakes the moon
his eyes are the moonlight.

The lemon tree blossoms
shock the rocky hearts.
When its flowers appeared
I smelled its perfume's love.

Actor Charif Ghattas directs the music video for "Lemon". He is also one half of the comedic duo that salts Saady's "Lemon" with puckering insights regarding the way tastemakers in the arts have a habit of getting tied up in themselves at the expense of others. When devoid of ego this metaphor extends to those who are lost in love, but are too shy or scared to pursue it. The chemistry between Ghattas and Khalifé is as powerful as are the video's synesthesia-inducing effects.

"Lemon" begins with Ghattas swinging a lemon on a string in an effort to hypnotize his subject who is a musician. Bachar Mar-Khalifé's character is cooperative, but unaffected, and proceeds to play harpsichord notes on a computer keyboard as he sings using a mop-headed duster for a microphone (the duster is later flipped and the prop is used as a flute). He is yellow and so is his lei-wearing sidekick. Calisthenic dabbling in tennis, paddleball, ball bouncing, hula hooping and soccer ball juggling ensue. This is followed by the musician allowing himself to be tied up in lemon-colored tape, which takes the lemon metaphor in an interesting direction.

The incarnation of lime from the video "Lemon"
and her fabulous eyelashes

The scene shifts and the musician appears standing upright as an attractive woman in a short lime-colored dress walks towards him to the beat of a heart monitor. Lime enters his lemon world batting large green eyelashes. The woman in the green dress is the embodiment of lime and uses her fruit as a sensual prop. The musician is entranced which is something his hypnotist/coach could not accomplish at the beginning of the video. C'est l'amour, no?

You can taste the lime juice as the woman consumes her own essence by ravaging the tart green fruit with her teeth. The synesthetic effect of the video kicks in as lime is transformed into a palatable sense object when lemon and lime hold court in the same space. A can of 7 Up® and a spritz of Eau de Cologne would do well here as memories of lemon and lime rise to the surface and generate cravings.

The lime woman disappears as quickly as she arrived leaving the aftertaste of a mirage in her absence. The musician's comedic counterpart reappears and after getting tipsy and ties up the musician in lemon tape once again. This time is different than the first as there is no option of escape; the musician is transformed into a living piece of lemon art and he didn't get the girl. This is why you press replay on the video more than once and think of lemon and lime for days after watching the video for Bachar Mar-Khalifé's "Lemon".


Bachar Mar-Khalifé is a French Lebanese singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist. He is a graduate of the Conservatory of Paris and is the son of the legendary Eastern-Lute player Marcel Khalifé and singer Yolla Khalifé. His brother, Rami Khalifé, is also a musician.  

"Lemon" is composed by Bachar Mar-Khalifé and appears on the album Ya Balad (translation: O Homelandwhich is available for download on iTunes. There are two remixes of Khalifé's "Lemon" song. One remix is a collaboration with Deena Abdelwahed. The other is a version featuring Yolla Khalifé (this version of "Lemon" is ripe for a movie or television soundtrack and is hauntingly beautiful).

Image of the lemon tree replete with blossom and fruit by Elena Chochkova.

Image of a lemon in hand and the actress who portrayed the incarnation of lime is from the video of "Lemon" are the property of Bachar Mar-Khalifé.