ode to the oud
The beautiful pear-shaped Arabian stringed instrument dates back to Ancient Egypt, roughly. Definitely an old ancestor of the guitar, but this one has a a very particular voice, it is tinny, pinging, expressive of an almost emotional tension, with a unique melodic scale; its often the most distinctive instrument that marks music from North Africa and the Middle East. Its name is: oud. (It rhymes with mood). The strings are grouped together in clusters, so where a guitar has one string, the Oud may have 2 or 3 strings, wrapped around the same peg. You can watch the oud in the videos below: an original piece by the most prominent female Oud player, Sherine Tohamy, featured on Al Jazeera's channel for children, and also an Oud cover of an Adele's "Hello."
Sherine Tohamy is Egyptian, the first female graduate from Cairo's Arab Oud House, and currently an adjunct-professor at New York University's outpost in Abu Dhabi. On her website, she shares words that, even if slightly marred in translation, express the strength and determination it surely takes, to rise as a female Arab musician:
Hold your dream .. No one can stop you except you.
Tohamy has played all over the world, but also: she is the leader of one of the first Arab female band, NAJMAAT, or in translation -- "STARLETS," which started in 2011. NAJMAAT hopes to be an inspiration to every girl to "reach the summit."* As Tohamy told the Khaleej Times in July 2013, about the oud: “It’s not just for men, some people think it is; but I hope women will try and see how wonderful it is. We even make smaller-sized Oud for ladies.” In Iraq, the oud is even said to have ancient healing powers, and apparently, even Saddam Hussein tried to learn it.**
* to roughly paraphrase the internet translation of the band's website
**see "Fabled Iraqi Instrument Thrives in Exile," by Erica Goode, NY Times (May 1, 2008)