DRB Time-Slice: Infinite Music & "Oud" Masterpieces

Link - article by Avi Abrams

Time-Slices: Random Delectable Pieces of Art, Style and Technology - Year-by-Year, from 1900 to Now
DRB Time-Slice: 1997 Music - Issue 3: Tunisian Musical Instruments

Time-Slices: totally addictive and delicious "Best of the Best" pickings of country-specific art, culture, technology and fashion, chosen by Random Number Generator for "Years", "Category" and "Location". We are going to gradually fill out our custom 100-year timeline with fascinating entries (in parallel with our usual features and normal content), so stay tuned and check on us often! Today's "Spin of the Exploration Wheel" gave us the following:

Year: 1997
Category: Music
Location: Tunisia

Unique and Beautiful "Maqamat Rose" Designs on Custom "Oud" Instruments

Here at DRB we love the exciting rhythms and unique melodic structure of Berber music of the Tuareg region. Turns out, Tunisian music is just as fascinating, if not more - as it is played on highly-ornamented, sophisticated instruments, such as custom-built "ouds", with their incredible ivory filigree over the soundhole and elaborate mother-of-pearl inlays... Plus, within the framework of Tunisian "malouf" music you actually get something not heard anywhere else.

Did you ever wish that your life be accompanied every single hour of your day with a specially-designed, unique-for-occasion music? Well, "Malouf" style provides for that, and more - read on to learn about unique Arabic "Maqamat" (music scales) and "nubas". We will start, however, with some mind-blowing "oud" designs.

(top image via)

Oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument used in many North Africa countries, a sort of a plucked lute (it lacks frets and has a shorter neck). Check out this incredible ornamentation on these handmade "ouds", showing the calligraphy of names of "maqamat" done in delicate ivory carvings... some instruments even include engraved poetry (poetical works by Hafiz, Rumi, and others... see "Qasida", a form of Perso-Arabic lyric poetry):

The "maqamat" scale is normally drawn in the form of a circle, with the name of the luthier usually placed in the center. This fantastic instrument has been made by Najib Shaheen (and another one dating from 1900 made by Abdo George Nahhat) - a beautiful "maqamat rose", indeed:

(images via 1, 2, 3, 4)

Another example of interesting ornamentation can be seen on this 1983 Mahmoud Haddad Syrian Oud:

(image via)

On the following image you can see the strips of top-quality wood (rosewood, walnut, maple and mahogany) used to make the rounded body of an "oud". By the way, the oud was originally called "Al-Oud" - "the wood" - which turned into "lute" in Europe. The earliest known oud date back to 5000 B.C. and come from Ancient Egypt; it is most certainly the ancestor of the guitar.

(image via)

Infinite Music: Unique melody for every day of the year! In fact, one for every hour, every moment... including improvisation!

The rich classical music tradition of North Africa (Algeria, Libya and Tunisia) is experiencing a revival of Tunisian "Malouf" - which is a fascinating style of music that "originally spread from Islamic Spain (Andalusia) to North Africa following the Christian Reconquest of Spain and subsequent expulsion of Sephardic Jews and Muslims" in the 13 and 14th Century.

"Malouf" consists of "nubas", and "nubas" - wait for it - are something else, indeed.

"According to legend, a distinct nuba once existed for every day, holiday and other event, though only thirteen remain". Other sources mention that there were initially 24 nubat, one for each hour of the day! Each nuba lasts 1 hour, so in essence, there is music assigned to every minute...

"Nuba" pieces, in turn, are composed in a single "maqam" (specific rules of Arab musical theory and notation), and what's more -

Each "maqam" is said to evoke a different emotion in the listener

"It is sometimes said that each maqam evokes a specific emotion or set of emotions determined by the tone row and the nucleus, with different maqams sharing the same tone row but differing in nucleus and thus emotion. Maqam Rast is said to evoke pride, power, soundness of mind, and masculinity. Maqam Bayati: vitality, joy, and feminity. Sikah: love. Saba: sadness and pain. Hijaz: distant desert."

This page has some audio examples of maqam families.

The circle of maqamat can be better seen in this reproduction of "Jurjina by Nashaz" CD jewel cover (left):

(image via)

These specific tonal arrangements were also reflected in ancient Arab architecture:

(image via, publ. "Arab Music Theory in the Modern Period")

Signs of revival of ancient Tunisian music tradition

Pretty interesting album "Folkloric Music of Tunisia" came out in 1997, signaling the renewed interest in ancient music of Northern Africa, highlighting its influences from Spain, France, and even modern jazz. Speaking of jazz, one good example to listen to will be "Tunizian Jazz" by Fawzi Chekili, also issued in 1997.

French love of jazz is clearly evident on this album, but Fawzi Chekili is also famous for his "oud" playing. Another master of "oud" is Afif Taian - see his performance, which at some point sounds almost like "speed metal" guitar solo!

(on the right is a compilation of North African musical instruments)

Here are some lovely ladies playing "oud": Barbat from Tehran, Iran, and Nina - who now lives in Sweden, after spending many years in Lebanon, Egypt, Spain, Greece and Dubai:

(images via 1, 2)

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.




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