So, over the past year I’ve been learning to play the oud. It’s the first new instrument I’ve picked up since the mandolin, and it’s the first fretless stringed instrument I’ve ever seriously taken up. It’s a deeply wonderful instrument, much more vocal and intuitive than a guitar due to the lack of frets – your fingers are (literally) closer to the music.
I’ve grown to really love music that is played on the instrument. You’ll probably assume that I fell in love with Marcel Khalife’s music, but that’s not entirely true. The first oud player I really grew to love is Sameeh Shuqair, after a friend in Palestine introduced me to the song “Blood Falls” about the siege on the Jenin refugee camp. Mostly using youtube I was able to discover many songs by Shuqair, and I also discovered other amazing musiciens such as Sami Hawat, Sheikh Imam, Naseer Shamma, Munir Bashir, and Zyad Rabbani. Not oud players, but prominently featuring the oud is also the music of Fairouz and Um Kalthoom. I did eventually try to listen to Marcel Khalife seriously, but I’ve never liked the way his music is soaked in orchestral strings. So when I discovered his first recording “Promises of the Storm” (1976), it was like a breath of fresh air, or a cool crisp glass of water. Since falling in love with that record, I have been listening to his catalogue more broadly as well, but I always go back to “Promises of the Storm”.
I’m writing this now because I’ve finally started doing some home recordings of myself playing the oud, and I want to share them. So they are up on my soundcloud, where you can listen to them (or even download them if you like).