Playlist #16: 100 Years of Oud

The oud, also dubbed “the king of instruments” can be found in compilations from Algiers to Baghdad and across the Arabic-speaking world. A precursor to the guitar, the oud is a fretless wooden 12-stringed lute whose origins are said to go back to Persia to as early as 3500 BC when it used to be made of one piece of solid wood. Hence its Arabic name “oud”. 

One of the oud’s main characteristics is its ability to reach a wide range of notes rarely matched by other instruments. 

Since the history of the oud is often attributed to male artists, not many women are portrayed as playing the oud on mass media outlets. Yet it is a well known fact that legendary singers like Egyptian Oum Kolthoum أم كلثوم, Kuwaiti Oudeh Lemhanna عودة المهنا used to play the oud. Less famous ones, like Asmahan أسمهان and Farid El-Atrash’s mother ِAmal El-Atrash أمال الأطرش  or Saudi oud player and singer Toha توحة were also amongst those who played the out, yet were unfortunately never spotlighted for their mastery. 

The 100 years of oud playlist is dedicated to the most prominent names in recent history like Riyad El-Sunbati رياض السنباطي who composed music for over 120 iconic Arabic singers. There’s also Sheikh Imam, whose revolutionary lyrics are tied to Egyptian history, in addition to innovators like Iraqi oud virtuoso Nasseer Shamma نصير شمة or nubian Sudanese composer and oud player Hamza El-Din حمزة الدين renowned  for working with artists like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. You will also find works by acclaimed Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem أنور براهم and iconic Palestinian musicians and composers Kamilya Jubran كاميليا جبران, Simon Shaheen سيمون شاهين and Trio Jubran. Worth checking out is the young generation of female oud-ists like renowned Omani oud player Amal Waqar أمل وقار or Tunisian Tanit d’Or winner of the 2018 Carthage Festival Nada Mahmoud ندى محمود. 

What are MARSM Playlists?

Marsm’s bi-weekly playlists take on the musical history, trends and upcoming productions from the music scene in the Arabic-speaking countries. Each playlist focuses on a new theme, showcasing both underground and established artists – from the more dance-able to the most experimental – and everything in between.