The history of the Oud, Aoud, or Lute can be
traced back to Lamak, a descendant of Biblical Cain, according to the Persian
mythology. As the story goes, on the death of his son, Lamak hung the young
man’s remains on a tree and the desiccated skeleton suggested the form of an
Throughout history, versions of the instrument have made their mark in
various civilizations from Spain
to China. The
Oud first appears in Mesopotamia during the Kassite
period (1600- 1150BC) with a small oval body. A larger variety, similar to the
instruments present day dimensions, appears at Alaca Huyuk in Anatolia
dating from the Hittite New Kingdom (1460-1190BC). Today, the Oud is known as ut
or ud in Turkey,
laouta in Greece,
udi in Africa and barbat in Iran.
In Arabic, the word means "wood", "twig", "flexible
rod", and also "aromatic stick".
The construction of the oud has a large, pear-shaped sound box, a short
broad arm without moveable frets, and its head almost at right angles to the
arm, with tuning keys at the sides. Its sound box is a little larger than that
of the lute, about 37cm at its widest point. The oud is usually about 87cm
long, and 20cm of which consist of the head with its tuning keys.
Traditionally, an eagle feather is used as a plectrum, though modern day performers
often use plastic picks. The original gut strings, too, have been replaced with
silver-wound nylon strings similar to those used on a classical guitar.
The art of oud making reached its golden period during
the turn of the twentieth century. The master Greek luthier, Monol, began
constructing ouds in Istanbul, which produced a sweeter, more refined sound. Later,
an Armenian by the name of Onnik Karibyan built ouds which became the favorite
of many throughout the Middle East.