An Introduction to the Oud

Oud-cordierImage via Wikipedia
An Oud doesn't make use of frets.
The Oud is a stringed instrument similar to a European lute, but without frets. Unlike a guitar, an oud has a curved, bowl-shaped back. Between it’s fretless fingerboard and its resonant curved back, the oud is capable of sounds at once, frenetic, melodious and meditative.

According to Wikipedia the modern oud and the European lute both descend from a common ancestor.

The oud was most likely introduced to Western Europe by the Arabs who established the Umayyad Caliphate of Al-Andalus on the Iberian Peninsula in 711.… [The] royal houses of Al-Andalus … cultivated an environment that raised the level of oud playing to greater heights and boosted the popularity of the instrument. The most famous oud player of Al-Andalus was Ziryab. He established a music school in Córdoba, enhanced playing technique and added a fifth course to the instrument. The European version of this instrument came to be known as the lute – luth in French, Laute in German, liuto in Italian, luit in Dutch, laúd in Spanish, and alaúde in Portuguese. The word "luthier", meaning stringed instrument maker, is in turn derived from the French luth. Unlike the oud, the European lute utilizes frets (usually tied gut).

Wikipedia continues in relation to the the later evolution of the European lute:

“[An] important point of transfer of the lute from Arabian to European culture might have been in Sicily, where it was brought either by Byzantine or later by Saracen musicians. There were singer-lutenists at the court in Palermo following the Norman conquest of the island, and the lute is depicted extensively in the ceiling paintings in the Palermo’s royal Cappella Palatina, dedicated by the Norman King Roger II in 1140.

My first introduction to the oud came from the Egyptian-born Australian Joseph Tawadros, whose love of the oud has popularised the instrument amongst many an Australian who previously might never have heard of the instrument. Joseph Tawadros is a player and composer of the oud who plays with passion and whose music can jump from at once deliriously frenetic thrumming to the sudden sublime contemplative melodies one usually only associates with the violin.

Joseph Tawadros’ has recently collaborated with Jazz musicians Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie and John Patitucci as well as his younger brother James Tawadros for his latest album “The Hour of Seperation”. The title comes from a line in a poem from Kahlil Gibran that says “Love knows not it's depth until the hour of separation”.

The Hour of Seperation can be found at and on iTunes.

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roxy said...

The Oud! I never knew it existed. Thank you for informing me. The music was lovely and memorable. Maybe I should write an ode to the Oud.

JJ said...

Great post! I teach some courses that touch upon musical instruments like the lute, but I don't believe I ever heard of the Oud. Good info. Thanks.

Judie said...

The music is beautiful and haunting!!

Akseli Koskela said...

Haha! Composing an ode to the Oud would be fantastic Roxy! But the real question is, could you compose an ode on the Oud?!

JJ, Yes, I agree it's good to learn about some of the older instruments. Most people seem to take for granted that guitars and pianos exist, without ever wondering "how long have they existed?", "who invented them?" or "where does our music come from?"

I agree completely Judie. That's why I felt I had to post something about it.

Akseli Koskela said...

Joseph Tawadros has brough my attention to a better video on Youtube which I could post to my site.

This is excerpted from Tawadros' latest Album "The Hour of Seperation":