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Oud, 'ud, barbat, luit, luth, lute, kuitra

Name: Oud
Classification: chordophones
Origin: Central AsiakuitraReddit

The oldest known oud or lute was discovered by the Americans in the tomb of the famous Egytian musician, Harmosis, who lived around 1500 BC. The body of this instrument is cut from one piece of wood. It resembles much the Morrocan guembri and evenso the soundboard is covered with an animal skin. It is played using a risha (plektrum). Some sources trace down the origin of the luth to the Chinese pipa or Zheng.

OudOud means 'piece of wood'. In Ibn Khaldun (14th century), 'ud denoted the plectrum of the lute called barbat. The aoud was perfected at the court of the Sassanides (6 th and 7 th century) by a renowed musician call Bârbad, at the court of Khosrow Parviz who added the fifth cord to the intstrument..

There exist various kinds of oud, with different sizes and amount of strings used. The Tunesian oud is other than the Morroccan and the Iraqi 'ud is different from the Sudanese or the Turkish. The strings are fixed in pairs exept for the lowest one. The classical luth has 4 double strings and a fifth bass string. This latter one was added in the 8th-9th century by Mohamed Ziryab who introduced the luth from Iraq into Andalusia, the most southern of Spain, at that time occupied by the Moors.

Ancient miniature
The oud consists of a large soundbox connected to a short neck, distinguishing it from the long-necked lute family (tanbur, saz, baglâma, setar, tar). The body has a pear shape (the modern ones manufactured in Egypt accentuate this even more). The soundboard has one large soundhole and two small ones. The soundholes can be richly ornamented as well as the soundboard. They are called shamsiyya (from shams, sun), qamarat (from qamar, moon) or ayun (eyes).
The oudi or oud player uses a long plectrum made of eagle feather to strum the strings.
The oud has several tunings
an arabic tuning being: D G A d g c
"Old English lute tuning": A D G b e a
(Special thanks for my friends Mohamed Zahnoun and Abed Halabi)


Angelo musicante
Carpaccio (1450-1522)
Accademia di Belle Arte, Venezia

The oud made his way to Europe, starting in Spain, in the 8 th century and finally developed itself to the most popular instrument in the western world: the guitar. We do not know if there existed intruments alike the lute in Europe before the 5 th century as fundamentalist Catholics considered instruments as being from the devil and banned them claiming it was the word of God (although it was never written in any religious book, most people did not read so clerics could easy play for God themselves)

The lithograph from Baum (picture top right) showed the oud under the name kuitra, with four double strings. It's name might be derived from the Greek word "Kithara". We still find the name "târ" chord in it's name.

Listen to oud music on: Tribal bellydance, Abdel Hazim
oud music for bellydancing on Wadi hafla, Abdel Hazim featuring Sadig El Gibril on oud
Mohamed Zahnoun plays on 2 track of Fusion bellydance
ABDEL HAZIM: Fusion BellydanceABDEL HAZIM: Bellydance revolutionsABDEL HAZIM: Tribal BellydanceABDEL HAZIM: Tribal beats including HatshepsutABDEL HAZIM: Wadi haflaABDEL HAZIM: transcendent bellydance
Alart du Hameel oud oud (50K) Hieronymus Bosch: The ship of fools (102K)Hieronymus Bosch painted "The ship of fools" (picture right) in the 15 th century. It's a very strange composition with a nun playing oud, a maytree with on top a banner Islamic crescent.
The 2 nuns and the monk are joining the may festivities, abandoning their spiritual duties. The Oud had become very popular in Europe in the 15 th century as we can see on the 3 examples of lute pictures.