The oud is the ancestor of many modern string instruments, including the lute and the guitar. Its origins may lie in Persia or Mesopotamia, but now, it is played all over the world, used in spiritual and secular music, in classical, pop, and jazz settings. In this program, we hear oud music from Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, Iraq, and elsewhere, exploring the instrument’s history, lore, and rich variety of styles and sounds. We talk with oud virtuoso Simon Shaheen, and innovator Anouar Brahem as we delve into mysteries surrounding this seminal string instrument. [Produced by Banning Eyre. Originally aired February 17th, 2003]
Born in Marrakech, Chraibi began playing the oud at 13. Today, he is renowned as an accompanist and artist in the Arabic music scene, continuing and deepening this musical tradition. Moreover, he also has a sharp eye for talent, discovering artists like singer Karima Skalli.
Farid el Atrache
Sometimes known as “King of the Oud,” was a Syrian-Egyptian virtuosic oud player, composer, singer, and actor. As a child, he was inspired by his mother’s talent at the oud and began singing at local radio stations. Extremely prolific, over his extremely successful four-decade career he left behind approximately 500 recordings, while starring in 31 movies.
A unusual another kind of world music band, the duo of percussionist Fain Dueñas and flutist Vincent Molino explored the common ancestor of these genres before they dispersed, circa mid-15th Century, for over 20 years. The band takes its name from an imaginary radio station in Tarifa, the southernmost part of Spain and the geographic center of this musical common-ancestor.
Born in the mountainous region of Kabylia, Algeria, in 1959, during the time of Algeria’s revolution against France. First playing on a homemade one-string lute, he eventually became one of the world’s premier mondol players (a 10-string North African guitar). His lyrics, in Kabyl, often address the plight of the Berber culture of North Africa.
The Zein Musical Party
A group that plays Swahili music with influences from the Arabic and Indian world, known as Taarab. From Mombasa, Kenya, the Zein Musical Party emphasizes the genre’s Arabic roots in their melodies and instrumentation, including the oud and Arabic hand drums.
Hamza El Din
Composer, vocalist, and later on, a professor of ethnomusicology specializing in folk music from Southern Egypt. In Egypt, he traveled collecting folk songs, attracting interest from the likes of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead and eventually leading to a recording contract and his emigration to the United States. His recording Escalay: The Water Wheel has been hailed as a oud-laden masterpiece and a seminal world music album.
An oud player hailing from Tunis, Tunisia. His music, while mostly grounded in the Arab classical music tradition, takes elements from folk and jazz as well.
A Syriac musician in Iraq and one of the most famous musicians in the Middle East during the 20th century, Bashir was considered to be the supreme master of the Arab maqamat scale system.
Lebanese composer and oud master–specializing in Arabic classical music–and later on, a professor at the Beirut National Conservancy of Music. Munir Bashir (1930-1997) was one of the most famous Iraqi musicians of the 20th Century, renowned for his improvisational skill that draws from Western music traditions, and invented the technique of contemplation with oud. Mohamed Hassan is a Libyan who is also renowned for his skill at the oud.
Cuban musician best known for playing with seminal Latin jazz groups The Afro-Cuban All-Stars and Buena Vista Social Club. He plays the laùd, a type of lute that bears a distinct resemblance to the lute.
One of the best known Egyptian singers of her time, she is still widely considered the best female singer in Arabic history. “The Star of the East” got her start by disgusing herself as a boy and entering her father’s performing troupe, where she was noticed by a moderately famous singer. Her seminal style defined Arabic popular music for much of the 20th century.
Lebanese oud virtuoso and is well-known for playing Arabic classical music.
Palestinian-American oud and violin virtuoso whose music reflects his roots, even as he broadens his repetoire and incorporates elements of Western classical music into traditional Arabic classical. As well as releasing five critically acclaimed albums since 1990 (with 2001’s Blue Flame being nominated for eleven Grammys), Shaheen has been a professor at the Academy of Music in Jerusalem, contributed selections to the movie Malcolm X, and been honored with the White House’s National Heritage Award.
A celebrated Iraqi oud player, he once worked closely with oud master Munir Bashir but disagreed with him, as Bashir wanted the instrument to be a way for the artist to turn inward and reflect, but Shamma wanted his music to speak out on tragedies occuring across the world. Recently, Shamma created an oud that was possible to play one-handed, for Iraqis maimed during the Gulf War.