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The Origin of the Oud

The oud has a mythic status, its origins hidden in antiquity and enhanced by myth, story, and legend. Beginning with the name, al-oud is traditionally taken from the Arabic for “the wood. The definite article al was dropped in Turkish and in Turkey the instrument is simply known as oud or ud (a matter of transliteration into English).

Most accounts trace The Oud’s entrance into Europe through North Africa and into the Iberian peninsula with the Umayyad Caliphate of Al-Andalus in 711 AD. The instrument eventually grew frets and became le-oud, the French definite article, resulting in lute.

It was in the courts of Al-Andalus that the oud became the subject of legends and elevated to mythic status. We remember the paradigmatic player of Al-Andalus as Ziryab or Zyriab, who founded the first music school of Spain and added the fifth course to the instrument.

Mythic genesis stories of The Oud go back to the Bible, where the oud is traced back to Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam who mourned for his dead son by suspended his body in a tree and the shape of his skeleton became the model for the shape of The Oud.

In the archaeological record, an instrument similar to the oud has been found throughout Mespotamian sites and ancient Egypt. It continues today to be one of the most popular instruments of the eastern Mediterranean and middle east.