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Chris-Stephens
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[*] posted on 4-4-2018 at 01:02 PM
Regional aspects of Oud variations


I'm very interested in the regional variations of the Oud. I'd like to ask the community for some examples of geographic differences in the instrument and how it is played.

For example, Turkish oud is very recognizable from the way it looks, it's construction, tuning, and how it is played, but how to articulate those differences with a written description?

What are some differences among the Arab world with the instrument?

And please let me know if my assumptions below are correct for the most part or not:

1. Syrian oud : round bottom, slanted sound holes...

2. Turkish oud : played with more vibrato or glissando...

3. Iraqi oud : floating bridge...

4. Egyptian oud : played with more tremelo...

5. Iranian oud...

6. Gulf oud...

7. Maghebi oud...

Please help with more region examples! I realize these are generalizations, but thats what geography does.

Usually the Middle East is thought of as Turkish, Arabic, and Persian but these are huge diverse groups themselves so I'm looking for more refined differences among and between these groups. Pretty much every Turkish oud i've seen looks the same, and every Arabic oud looks different, and I've only seen a few Persian ouds. What are the differences between them among themselves and their neighbors?

Thank you

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Alfaraby
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[*] posted on 4-5-2018 at 02:11 AM


You better look this up before continuing this interesting thread:

http://www.mikeouds.com/messageboard/viewthread.php?tid=11301

Yours indeed
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Chris-Stephens
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[*] posted on 4-5-2018 at 05:29 AM


Thank you! This is useful for the physical differences, but I'm more looking for differences in how they are played as well.
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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 4-5-2018 at 06:33 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Chris-Stephens  
Thank you! This is useful for the physical differences, but I'm more looking for differences in how they are played as well.


For the differences in how they are played, listen to each over a period of two years (I'm not so crazy as to suggest 2 years for each), making sure to include a variety of players, and to include historical and also contemporary players, be sure to include average players as well as geniuses., and avoid generalizing or forming any opinions until the 2 years have passed. After that you will know something about how the oud is played or as has been played in different regions. You will also realize that particular techniques are not confined to particular types of ouds.

I have composed a reply to your list of generalized assumptions. You asked if they were correct. I think they are incorrect. I hesitate to send it because the characteristics you assigned to the categories you mention unintentionally deny oud history and oud reality. I lack the skill to compose an even handed thoroughly unprovocative reply.
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Chris-Stephens
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[*] posted on 4-5-2018 at 07:46 AM


I've listened to a variety of oud players from different regions and time periods for much longer than two years. I'm asking how to articulate the audible differences between regional playing styles with words. Words like vibrato, tremelo, arpeggio, glissando, I don't really know the descriptors or if there are other (Arabic?) words that can be used to describe techniques, hence the question. I'm more specifically asking about taqsim as opposed to compositions.

"You asked if they were correct. I think they are incorrect. I hesitate to send it because the characteristics you assigned to the categories you mention unintentionally deny oud history and oud reality. I lack the skill to compose an even handed thoroughly unprovocative reply."

Please kindly correct me then. Call upon your deeply innate good natured human skills to share interesting information and well-informed personal opinion without being heavy handed and provocative. You can do it, I believe in you!
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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 4-6-2018 at 08:39 AM



Some of this post probably does not qualify as “thoroughly unprovocative” . “Sufficiently provocative but not overbearing” might be a reasonable descriptor. I hope it is acceptably mild.

I was so puzzled by the idea that Turkish ouds typically have white rosettes (this was in your original post but is no longer there) that I wanted to address it first. I’ll put it at the end of this post; although white rosettes are no longer a fundamental paradigm in your Turkish category my discoveries might be interesting to some forum members here.

I am am dubious about the idea that slanted oval sound holes are “Syrian”. There are 2 reasons for this. Although I don’t know who used this design first or where, I’ve seen slanted oval sound holes on ouds from Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf and from Egypt. I had one myself about 35 to 40 years ago. It sounded great until someone sat on it, mistaking its case for a tuffet. After that it sounded like splinters. I’m wondering if you have been thinking that one of Sukar’s sound hole shapes typifies the whole of Syrian oud making, past and present. Just a guess.

The celebrated Nahat family of oud makers of Damascus, Syria built ouds with round sound holes. I don’t think these luthiers whose instruments are coveted by players all over the world and copied by other luthiers, and whose work is universally admired, were somehow unable or unwilling to make the right kind of sound holes. And what about all those round hole ouds from Syria made by the Khalife family and others? Perhaps slanted oval holes are not a primary characteristic of Syrian ouds after all. If slanted oval holes is a defining Syrian oud characteristic what is the explanation for the makers in Cairo who used that design in the early 1980s?

If Iraqi ouds typically have had floating bridges that would mean that very skilled Iraqi oud players of the 20th century such as Jamil Bashir and Salman Shukur, and others were unusual or somehow wrong in their choice of continuing to play fixed bridge ouds once the floating bridge design came into being. And what about Usta Ali who built their fixed bridge ouds in Baghdad? Was he misguided or insufficiently Iraqi? And what about Mohamed Fadel whose Baghdad-made fixed bridge ouds are still played all over the middle east?

I think the floating bridge oud is an idea of one person who happened to be from Iraq and which oud players from all over the middle east now find suitable for types of music that are not specifically Iraqi. There are some excellent musicians these days who are Iraqi and who play floating bridge ouds, but there are also some in Tunisia, Lebanon, and elsewhere. I hear nothing in the floating bridge sound that particularly says “Iraqi music”, especially if one considers the music of Baghdad and other parts of Iraq over the last 100 years.

Before sensible categories of ouds and oud techniques can be discussed it might be helpful to consider that the hard and fast borders of the relatively recently created nation-states of the middle east do not always correspond to the fuzzy borders of musical practice, aesthetics, and techniques.

The 7 category idea in its present form assumes that a particular oud shape determines how it will be played. I haven’t got time right now to go into the details about why this is often not the case but sometimes is true and in surprising ways. Then there is the issue about how design determines sound. Soundboard bracing is essential. Bridge type has an effect. But there is a chicken and egg situation. Does a regional preference for a particular oud sound determine how ouds are built or does the sound of locally made ouds create a cultural preference?

To make any sense of regional oud differences again one must remember how porous borders have been. You can find anything anywhere to some extent. It’s complicated.

Maghrebi oud is of several types, and one or another type may be found playing one or another of the various regional musics. One traditional type has a relatively thin sound. But this is partly due to the right hand technique. Another is deep and sonorous even in F tuning. It’s complicated.

At this point there are variety of oud and barbat designs in Iran but they are all played more or less the same. The flat bottom design of Cairo oud makers of the past does not cause “more” tremolo to be played. I would say the Iranian players play more tremolo than the Egyptian players. It is their musical heritage that determines this, not the shape of the oud.

I was so puzzled by the white rosette idea that I dropped everything I was doing and viewed a random sampling on youtube. Out of the first 25 Turkish oud videos that came up 3 ouds had white rosettes. My own two Turkish ouds have rosettes that are not white. One is ebony, the other pearloid. No one has ever identified this as an anomaly.

Many luthiers in Turkey and Greece who are building ouds meant for Turkish music fit their ouds with rosettes that are red, orange, yellow, gold, silver, brown, black, white (yes!) and some use multi-colored rosettes made of horn. I just now checked the websites of 4 makers of Turkish ouds. Of the ouds that were displayed on the pages I checked, here is the number with white rosettes.

Bulent Eryalman zero out of 13
Faruk Turunz 6 out of 32
Veysel Music 3 out of 10
Dimitris Rapakousios 2 out of 22 but one of these was a Syrian model. It had 3 round holes.





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[*] posted on 4-6-2018 at 09:27 AM


6. Gulf Ouds: The two big names in oud making in the gulf area are:

1. Salmeen Ouds - Kuwait
2. Bahraini Ouds - Bahrain

Salmeen: The original Salmeen factory in Kuwait was started by Yousuf Salmeen, they used to produce ouds regarded as "legendary" in the 80's and 90's.
Their status & uniqueness was -almost- compared to the ouds produced by the great Mohammed Fadhel from Iraq.
Unfortunately, the quality of workmanship has changed drastically by the late 90's.
Many people believe whoever used to make the ouds in their factory has either left Kuwait, or passed away..
The name still shines, but you hardly ever hear anyone mentioning Salmeen ouds nowadays except for a small circle of collectors who seek the good 'ole Salmeen ouds.

Bahraini Ouds: Not sure exactly when they started producing ouds ( I'll ask next time I visit)
While they never had the legendary status of Salmeen ouds from Kuwait, almost every oud player from the gulf region has either owned or played one.
They sold and still sell for very reasonable prices with very good quality, the managers apparently know how to market their products and set price-points.
If you walk into their shop (Music Spot) in the famous Exibitions Rd. in Manamah, you will find about 20-30 ouds on display, most of which are for starters priced around $200, and about 5-6 ouds that are excellent quality and made of fine woods and veneers for around $800-$900.
Bahraini ouds come out of a very tiny island (Bahrain) but you'll find THOUSANDS of them in everywhere in neighboring countries especially Saudi Arabia.

Now, regarding their construction and shape..
The best way I would describe their essence would be to ask you to look at ouds made by "Thabit Al-Basry"..
They tend to follow the essence of old Iraqi fixed-bridge ouds..
A bit on the larger side, fixed bridge, 3 oval sound holes..

You can google the names I mentioned to get an idea ;)

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Chris-Stephens
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[*] posted on 4-9-2018 at 06:35 AM


I removed the ‘white rosette’ comment because I realized how wrong that was. Again I’m less concerned with the construction and design of the instrument and more curious about regional taqsim performance styles. Many differences can be heard but I’m for looking ways to put those patterns into descriptive words. I do appreciate the names, Oudistan, and always enjoy reading about the makers!

“Does a regional preference for a particular oud sound determine how ouds are built or does the sound of locally made ouds create a cultural preference?”

This is a question I’ve though a lot about as well. I doubt there is a ‘real answer’ that applies to it all but im sure there are some specific cases where the design of an instrument changed to fit a cultural aesthetic, perhaps in the transition from Oud to Chinese Pipa?

I appreciate the insights you’ve provided, but here are the provocative statements that are absolutely unnecessary:

1. “I don’t think these luthiers whose instruments are coveted by players all over the world and copied by other luthiers, and whose work is universally admired, were somehow unable or unwilling to make the right kind of sound holes.”


You seem to think my list is somehow authoritative when I myself said they are assumptions and asked for corrections. I’ve simply observed a few ouds with slanted holes and they happened to be Syrian. Surely you don’t actually think I’m saying Nahat is “unable or unwilling to make the right kind of sound holes”. If you take a step back you will see what a ridiculous accusation that is. But hey, you warned that you have limited self-restraint in your provocative and heavy handed responses so here we are.

2. “Jamil Bashir and Salman Shukur, and others were unusual or somehow wrong in their choice of continuing to play fixed bridge ouds once the floating bridge design came into being.”


I really don’t know how you got to this point from me asking for corrections to a list of assumptions. Do you really not see how absurd it is to say that? Or do you see that it’s absurd and say it anyway because you’ve decided that you are the self-appointed provocateur of the English speaking Oud forum? I’d encourage you to respond to the subject matter and avoid these separate tangents. Again, I’ve observed many floating bridge ouds, and most of them were labeled as being Iraqi style so I assumed there was a connection. All you had to say is “actually floating bridge ouds are a recent thing and found on many non-Iraqi ouds”. Simple, calm, and to the point.


3. “And what about Usta Ali who built their fixed bridge ouds in Baghdad? Was he misguided or insufficiently Iraqi?”


I hope you can see how unreasonable this sounds. Do you have a case of mild celebrity that you think grants you permission to make strawman statements like this? Perhaps you need to read up on the “strawman” argument style and try to not do that.

It is entirely possible to pass on information and opinion without being condescending. Especially since this is the only place online where this subject matter is discussed in English. Have some common human decency and respect the community. This forum gives a select few people a rare opportunity to discuss a fascinating musical instrument, its not a place for you to belittle users, put words in their mouth, and attempt to provoke an argument. That being said, ignoring the strawmen provocations in the response, I do understand a bit more on the post topic and look forward to hearing more about it.
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[*] posted on 4-9-2018 at 08:13 AM


From my perspective my comments were light and deliberately absurd. Of course I don't think you believe the Nahat luthiers were unable to make slanted oval holes. That is precisely my point. I was taking to its logical conclusion the idea that this sound hole shape was an essential characteristic of Syrian ouds. My model for the comment about them being unable was the pivotal courtroom scene in the film "My Cousin Vinny". A witness is claiming that a crime took place during the time the witness was cooking grits. The lawyer, Vinnie, played by Joe Pesci, newly arrived in the south has discovered how long it takes to cook grits and sees a discrepancy between this reality and the statement of the witness. He asks "were these Instant Grits?". No! No self-respecting resident of Alabama would allow such a thing in the kitchen. Well then, if these grits actually cooked in such a short time, were these Magic Grits? It's one of the funniest lines I've ever seen in a film, delivered with a perfection of timing. The judge objects but the witness is not offended. I expected you would not be offended either. The point is not that I think you are so stupid as to think a Nahat incapable but rather that you are so intelligent as to see that of course they are, and therefore the categorical characteristic of slanted oval hole means a Syrian origin must be a mistake. The same thing applies to my other exaggerated statements.

Yes I could have simply dryly corrected the assumptions. Would that have convinced you? In the thread where you expressed the opinion that great oud players ought to have great humility in how they dress and groom themselves I dryly presented the historical record that contradicted that idea. So did others. You did not seem to be convinced. So this time I thought it best to try exaggeration to get my point across.
I did not mean to offend you or any other forum members.

Did I succeed or did I fail? You seem to have accepted my arguments as a reasonable representation of the historical record. Would you have believed me if I was less provocative? Maybe not. I don't know. In any case I will respond with to any future posts of yours with which I disagree without a trace of exaggeration or sarcasm.
peace,
jody
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Chris-Stephens
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[*] posted on 4-9-2018 at 09:05 AM


I understand now. Sarcasm and playful exaggeration are difficult to translate into plain text, especially between strangers. Sorry to apparently make a mountain out of a molehill.

Regarding "great oud players ought to have great humility in how they dress and groom themselves", I stated an opinion that I should have kept to myself. I still feel that the Oud is an instrument capable of great contemplation and spiritual depth, not a fashion accessory and a serious performer should present themselves as such. Uploading pictures of yourself playing Oud in a gaudy and flamboyant outfit on Instagram with the hashtag #swagger is not, in my opinion, congruent with my idea of a serious classical musician but someone who's more interested in looking cool and creating an ego-based image - a vast departure from absorption into this delicate music form. This is the sort of elitist gatekeeping that people don't like so lesson learned. I see that it is a preference that only further refines my already specific tastes in Oud music.

Anyway, back to the subject. I recently got an album called "Oriental Maqams" by Raed Khoshaba - a wonderful Iraqi Oud player - in which he plays the same maqam in "Iraqi" "Turkish" and "Egyptian" style. I'd love for others to listen to this and try to articulate the differences in these playing styles. The differences here are more noticeable and perhaps more intentionally exaggerated. The Turkish style has more glissando and hammer-ons while the Egyptian style has more long tremelo bursts. Anyone else have this album? It's available on Spotify.
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[*] posted on 4-9-2018 at 09:25 AM


Excellent. Onward and Upward.
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