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The treasures behind the national glory of oud

Sat, Sep. 9, 2017
CAIRO – 9 September 2017: Music is a main cultural form in the history of any nation. The oud, or the king of oriental music, is always one of the main sounds that defines music in the region.

It is also one of the oldest instruments in the Orient. Different forms of oud were found in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

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Due to its importance as a part of our identity, the Arab Music Institute is displaying a collection of the oldest and most iconic ouds ever.

Eighteen ouds are displayed at the Arab Music Institute museum since its establishment in 1923.

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Hazem Shaheen is a musician and oud player in the trending Egyptian band Eskendrella. He has long been involved in documenting the history of ouds.

The different ouds on display narrate the development of the oud industry, in addition to expressing the differences between oriental music schools and instrument makers.

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The king of the exhibited ouds is the one that belonged to the maestro of generations, Mohamed Abdelwahab. It was made by one of the iconic oud makers in the 1920s and 1930s, Hanafy El Kayal. Kayal's ouds carry distinctive features.

Abdelwahab’s oud was made from ebony wood with a golden colour. It is adorned with a royal crown printed on it and with pieces of tortoise leather as decoration and as a sound supporter. It also has many decorations made of white ivory on its neck.

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Abdelwahab's oud is 70.8 centimetres long and the depth of the soundbox is 18.5 centimetres. The length of its neck is 19.6 centimetres and the strings are 62 centimetres long. The maximum width of the soundbox is 34.8 centimetres and its length is 51.2 centimetres.

The other ouds made by Kayal feature similar dimensions to Abdelwahab’s.

The oldest oud in the museum was made by the Syrian Nahat Brothers in 1890, most probably made by Abdo Nahat. The oud is 71.1 centimetres long, while the soundbox is 19 centimetres deep, 52.5 centimetres in length and 36 centimetres in width. The length of the neck is 19.6 centimetres, and the length of the strings is 62.5 centimetres.

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The second oldest oud was made in 1893 by a Turkish maker, as the attached card showed. The card also showed that the maker carried a bachelor’s degree in musical instruments from Paris, highlighting the importance of Mohamed Ali’s educational missions.

The Turkish oud is 70.9 centimetres long, while the length of the strings is 62.3 centimetres, and the neck is 19.4 centimetres long. The features of the soundbox are not very different from the others; it is 51.5 centimetres in length and 17.5 centimetres in depth, while the maximum width is 34.2 centimetres.

Although it was made by a Turkish maker, it followed Egyptian standards.

Another important oud belonged to Ahmed Afandy El Deek, made by Mohamed Abdelhady in 1924. The oud has educational markings on its neck. The oud is 72.5 centimetres long, with a 19.5 centimetre neck. The soundbox is 53 centimetres in length, with a 33.5-centimetre maximum width and 18.5-centimetre depth.

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Another Syrian oud made by the Nahat brothers, which may be the only one made by the brothers following the Egyptian standard, was also on display. It was made by Anton Nahat in 1907 and its length is 71.5 centimetres. The strings measure 63 centimetres. The length of the soundbox is 51.5 centimetres, while its maximum width is 33.5 centimetres and its depth is 18 centimetres.

A third oud made by the Nahat brothers belonged to Georgy Hana Nahat. Its length is 73.3 centimetres, the length of the strings is 63.3 centimetres and the length of the neck is 20.5 centimetres. The width of the soundbox is 36.5 centimetres, and its length is 52.8 centimetres.

The last Syrian oud displayed in the museum belonged to Mohamed Abdelwahab as well. It was made by Ali Khalifa in 1962. Its length is 71.4 centimetres, and the length of its neck is 20.5 centimetres. The strings are 61.4 centimetres long, the width of the soundbox is 50.6 centimetres and the depth of it is 20.5 centimetres.

The final documented oud is by an anonymous luthier. Its length is 72.2 centimetres, and the length of the strings is 63.7 centimetres. The neck is 19 centimetres long, the width of the soundbox is 33.5 centimetres, the depth of the soundbox is 18.5 centimetres, and its length is 53.2 centimetres.

An oud kept at Cairo Opera House made by an anonymous luthier and another one made by El Khalafawy are the only two ouds without documentation.

Arts and music are the main cultural forms that give a nation its identity and existence. Culture is a bright source of pride for the nation.

Translated by Egypt Today staff
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