Mike's Oud Forums

Khaled al Halabi - Talented young Luthier in Beirut

Melbourne - 8-24-2015 at 07:54 AM

Dear Friends and fellow oud brethren…

So after a couple of years having not participated on these forums, my appetite for the oud and music in general is slowly returning. We all tend to get overwhelmed with family and work and forget about the simple and pleasurable things in life.
It begins when on my first trip to Lebanon back in 2011, I buy a Syrian buzuq from a music shop in zahle for $135 :rolleyes: Having tried several sukkar buzuqs and other instruments at the likes of chahine’s in hamra, the average asking price for a buzuq was $400 US, and I did not yet want to spend $1000+ on a pro instrument.
To my great distress and disappointment, I entrusted the instrument to a flight attendant upon boarding the flight to Melbourne. And of course we all know what happened then :applause: Luckily it was a clean break, the wooden dowel connecting the neck to the neck block in the bowl had snapped in half. However to repair this damage here in Australia would cost me at least twice what I paid for the instrument in Lebanon. And so it sat abandoned in a cupboard.
Fast forward to June 2015, my second trip to Lebanon. My aim to return to Australia with at least – a buzuq! I stumbled across Khaled al Halabi by chance via Facebook, though at this time there was some confusion as to whether he was based in Lebanon, Jordan or Syria; having only exchanged a couple of Facebook messages prior to leaving Australia.
Having arrived in Lebanon I decide to contact Khaled and find out once and for all about his oud and buzuq making. It took a while but eventually I located his workshop near the corner of Saeb Salam and Salim Salem streets in Wata Msaytbeh area. He shares an underground (as in below street level) workshop with an upholsterer, so there was a fine mess of ouds, buzuqs, velvet sheets and delicate carved furniture everywhere. I arrived to warm greetings around 1.30 pm, but as the electricity was out and not due back till three, we headed to a nearby shisha cafe, I wanted to find out more about Khaled’s background and his instruments. At 30 he seemed very young for an oud maker, but as with many things in this part of the world, there was a long family history. After leaving Damascus to escape hostilities in 2013, Khaled originally set up shop in Amman, investing in machinery and establishing connections for importing timber. However he began to face many hurdles considering the delicate situation in the region, eventually choosing to relocate to Beirut, and start from zero, again.
We dig into history. Khaled comes from a family who for many generations operated as woodworkers and interior decorators in the Salihiya neighbourhood of Damascus. But the real story begins with his paternal grandfather, Jawdat al Halabi, who died in 1990 aged 100. Jawdat was to be the first family member of memory to take up music, having abandoned the family trade and studied double bass at the local conservatoire, and joining a professional orchestra. With his background in woodwork and music associations, Jawdat found himself taking up the art of instrument making which began with minor repairs to his colleagues’ instruments; eventually taking up oud making after serving an apprenticeship to a distant relative who was a professional oud and kanun maker. Khaled tells me a little story. In 1955, Jawdat learnt that Oum Koulthoum would tour in Damascus and Beirut. He slaved for months to eventually produce an oud with a bowl made of bamboo. Excited to meet his idol and present his gift. However the opportunity in Damascus did on take place. Determined to meet the diva, he made his was to Beirut with the instrument and again insisted that he, an artist from Damascus had followed the legend to Beirut, and was determined to meet her and present his gift. Apparently Oum Kalthoum agreed to meet the man, who presented her with this unique oud. On the back of the neck, he inscribed with the following words –la yu3raf al mara’a fi 3asruh – something along the lines of “man will not be known in his life time” Interesting I thought.
Jawdat would open a musical instrument workshop in Jisr al Abyad neighbourhood in Damascus. Of his 6 children, all would work in the family business and 5 would eventually open separate warshas.
According to Khaled, his four uncles became mass instrument makers, with factories producing similar work to that of Khalifa, Sukkar and the like – didn’t go into much detail. Khaled’s father Bashar would take up small scale fine instrument making. Having studied mechanical drafting, Bashar developed a close eye to detail which would eventually show in his fine ouds. And so we get to Khaled, the younger of 2 sons born in 1984, who from an early age showed promising talent in the arts and enjoyed working at his father’s workshop.
“l’m so blessed to be born into a family of woodworkers. I love to work with wood, whether it’s the oud, interior of my car, house fittings, I’ve customised everything around me to be from wood!” Khaled studied fine arts at tertiary level and learned the oud. He’s also passionate about his oil paintings, of which he always spoke.
But perhaps the most interesting story to come out of Khaled’s brief family history – is the price one pays for not being famous, or well know. I had the pleasure to see and hear several ouds made by Khaled and his father. The work is quite beautiful, the sound is uniquely “shami”. Even the heavily decorated ouds had fine beautiful detail, though human error is clearly there for the sharp eye. We are not talking about work produced with routers and laser cutters, such we see today with modern makers. This is mostly physical hand work, especially at the finer details.
We all know the well know makers, Turkish, Egyptian, Syrian, and Lebanese. But there are many many others out there who are not so tech-savvy and virtually connected so as to develop international reputation and produce instruments in the 2-6K rage. Especially in a place like Syria, or Egypt there are many unknown makers who produce fine instruments, where the price is only enough to cover their expenses and humble living standards. Khaled amazed me when he said he and his father had over the years produced dozens upon dozens of oud and buzuq bowls, faces and other parts – for many of the “famous” makers throughout the middle east, who only “assemble” – to use his words.
And so I told Khaled about the forums here, and why he hadn’t signed up to show his work and talent. He’s never heard of Mike Ouds! I thought everyone knew Mike Ouds! But it went to show that so many out there are and will remain “unconnected” – whether for lack of internet, tech savviness or just ignorance. However it did give hope, that fine instruments could still be found out there, without the multi thousand price tag.

I asked Khaled what he wanted to achieve from his career. He wants to be better known. Work alone and remain small scale – manufacturing ouds in the “mid-price range”. Whilst in Lebanon, I saw Khaled produce a fine oud for a “known producer”, several student level ouds and buzuqs, and three fine buzuqs, one for me, and the other 2 went to 2 well known Lebanese players – maybe they’re members here :)

So Khaled made my buzuq, which I absolutely love (subject of another post). There was no way I was showing any flight attendant what was in that leather bag…. It made for a very uncomfortable 20 hour journey :(
But I’m hoping I can now allocate and better manage my time to practice oud, and buzuq. Hopefully meet a few locals and establish a Melbourne oud scene :buttrock: – I’m sure there’s a few of us on here!











freya - 8-24-2015 at 04:25 PM


Any chance you could provide Khaled's Facebook info? It might help his exposure if some of us linked to him...


Khaled contact details.

Melbourne - 8-24-2015 at 09:36 PM

For sure...

His Facebook page is called Aawad Tarab. He regularly posts pictures of his completed instruments and there are also a few sound clips of oud and buzuq. He doesn't know English, but happy to help out if anyone has any questions.

His direct mobile in Beirut is 71 556 838


Nahatesque al Halabi Oud

Melbourne - 8-24-2015 at 11:48 PM

I fell in love with this oud. One of Khaled's early ouds under the supervision of his father. Nahhat style complete with the deep Nahhat bump in the upper part of the bowl. 60 cm vibrating string length. Had it been 61.5 I would've also grabbed it :D









Oud for a Producer - completed August 2015

Melbourne - 8-25-2015 at 02:20 AM

The work on the bowl really caught my attention on this one. Triple small stipe lines in between ebony ribs! Makes the bamboo bowl sound like child's play...

[file]36464[/file] [file]36466[/file] [file]36468[/file] [file]36470[/file] [file]36472[/file] [file]36474[/file]





majnuunNavid - 8-25-2015 at 08:28 PM

Thanks for sharing this story. I love hearing about these more obscure small batch builders. They are very important in the Oud world.

Melbourne - 8-28-2015 at 10:11 PM

Thanks guys.... Actually I've found his father's name mentioned a couple of times here on the forums. Be interesting to see any other Halabi ouds out there.

I've noticed on Oud.Proff's facebook page pictures of a shami oud with very similar characteristics to Khaled's ouds, the pick guard, diamond shells on the back of the neck. I wonder if it's also an oud of Khaled or Bashar.

Here's a few shots of the completed Producer's oud...










Mehran - 8-30-2015 at 01:25 AM

Quote: Originally posted by Melbourne  
I've noticed on Oud.Proff's facebook page pictures of a shami oud with very similar characteristics to Khaled's ouds, the pick guard, diamond shells on the back of the neck. I wonder if it's also an oud of Khaled or Bashar.

Here's a few shots of the completed Producer's oud...

I think it's one of Khalid's ouds. You can just make his make name out from the shot of central sound hole.

Melbourne - 9-23-2015 at 07:54 PM

Hey Mehran

Not sure if you're referring to the oud in the post above, which is definitely Khaled's - The one I was talking about is on Oud Proff's face book page, for sure a Halabi, though not sure if the father or the son.



Quality Student Oud

Melbourne - 9-26-2015 at 07:35 PM