Arabic Music: Introduction to the Oud

The oud is the king of Arabic music; it’s to Arabic music what the piano is to Western music.

The oud is a fretless instrument, which means that the notes it produces are continuous rather than discrete. This is important because Arabic music is microtonal. What does this mean? If you look at a piano, you can see that it has 12 notes that repeat across its length. In Arabic music, there are notes between those notes. These are called microtones. And in fact, Arabic music is not standardized, and each region in the Arab world has slightly different microtones. In one region, a microtone might be slightly lower or higher in pitch than in another. The oud allows for this flexibility.

Here are some of my favourite oud musicians:

The classics:

Abadi Al-Johar. A Saudi oud virtuoso. Nicknamed أخطبوط العود, “The octopus of the oud”. His style tends to be melancholic and depressive. (As a side note, I love his grainy voice.) | youtube.com/watch?v=0WPOKQqjkWQ

Munir Bashir. Another master of the oud. This one from Iraq. | youtube.com/watch?v=_b1176PGFR4

Mohamed Abdel Wahab. An Egyptian oud musician who composed music for many of the best Arabic singers. The folllwing is a long composition, but it’s a piece that he composed for Umm Kulthum—one of her most well-known songs. | youtube.com/watch?v=7OfqJVPAATg

The contemporary musicians:

Omar Bashir. Munir Bashir’s son. He combines the oud with electronic music. | youtube.com/watch?v=ZYLwb1S8Zc4

Le Trio Joubran. Three Palestinian brothers playing together. The first oud trio. | youtube.com/watch?v=qbU8cgW5Y_Q

Khyam Allami. British-Iraqi musician. His music is recorded in wide spaces to take advantage of the echoes and reverb. It gives the music a lot of depth. | youtube.com/watch?v=kNzWB51gwP8

Bonus track:

Le Trio Joubran & Mahmoud Darwish—one of the best and most well-known modern Arabic poets. | youtube.com/watch?v=KqpFRQYK7T0

Feel free to share any oud music you like. :)

Mar 28, 2019 10:38 PM
Comments · 7
You forgot about Anouar Brahem from Tunisia.
March 30, 2019
Yes ! thank you for reminding about Anouar Brahem, he has his own style in Arabic jazz
March 31, 2019
I listened recently to Muhammad and Abdallah Abozekry from Egypt.
March 29, 2019

Hello Abdullah, thanks for sharing !
I want to add some other great Oud player nowadays.

Zied Gharsa from Tunisia: https://youtu.be/cLDvQdnmZos
The Oud of Zied has only 4 strings which is the oldest version of Oud. We still use it in Tunisia. We say that the famous Ziryab brought it from Iraq.
Nasser Shama from Iraq: https://youtu.be/c2PRIW5KHZI

March 29, 2019

عمر: Thank you for sharing. Yes, Naseer Shamma is great!

Sun: I will have to check them out. Thank you for sharing.

Ishtar: You’re welcome!

Adam: He’s one of my favourite jazz musicians. :)

March 31, 2019
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