: 76 cm
Arab and Mediterranean Center Tunisia
When I had to choose an instrument for this project, I felt it
was absolutely necessary for the instrument to arouse profound
feelings in me other than just curiosity and the pleasure of learning
(also very important reasons in my view). When I was young, I
studied the ud and then the piano and although I abandoned the
ud for several years, it is the instrument that finally led me
to devote myself to musical studies. And it is the same love of
the lute that led me to choose it as my instrument for this project.
The ud is
made of a soundbox that looks a bit like a pear cut lengthwise.
It also has a neck. The word ud means "stick" in Arabic. It is
without doubt the most widespread chordophone in the world. It
is such a treasure that it can be found in various shapes in a
great many different countries. It has gained a lofty position
as a solo instrument and makes an excellent voice accompaniment.
It also has a place of honour in the history of Arab music as
the instrument that enables us to define its scale.
lute is different on account of its frets and 15th century playing
technique as well as the number of strings (13 pairs in the 17th
century). For interpreting "modal" music, there are several types
of ud: the Oriental ud, the Tunisian ud (played in Tunisia, Libya
and eastern Algeria) and the Algerian ud (called the kouitra).
Although these ud have some similarities, they are different in
size, tone and specific playing technique for each of them. The
Tunisian ud is very close to an 11th century lute. It is smaller
than the Eastern lute and, like lutes of the 11th century, has
four pairs of strings and similar proportions.
strings of the Tunisian ud are tuned in C 3 – G 2 – D 3 – D 2.
This lute requires a special plectrum technique to play it which
can pluck the strings (thus playing the tune) and the soundboard
at the same time, with the strings keeping the rhythm. The playing
technique is difficult and takes long training to master it to
play expressively. In Tunisia, the Eastern ud seems to have become
popular with the spread of Eastern music on 78 rpm records in
the 1910s to 1920s. This popularity, however, was at the expense
of the Tunisian ud, which was seen less often in orchestras over
the years, becoming more or less obsolete in the 1960s. In Tunisian
music circles, there are avid defenders of the Tunisian ud, those
who do not care for it and even some who consider it to be a stagnant
and undeveloped instrument.
As a musician
who plays the Eastern rather than the Tunisian ud, I belong to
the indifferent party. However, the more I study, the more my
attitude changes. Today, the ud appeals to my deepest emotions.
It is a generous, magic and marvellous instrument. Its soft, warm
tone, vibrant and sparkling at the same time, can reach deep into
the heart of audiences through the simplest melodies. For those
who have an opportunity to play this instrument, the ud is a wonderful
means of expression. It is a living instrument that can adapt
to the most varied emotions of the musician. It is certainly important
to champion one’s culture but for me, there is a much more important
goal beyond musical chauvinism and that is to give yourself wholly
to the instrument you are playing with loyalty and honesty. Whether
we cut the "pear" in half and learn to play the Tunisian or Eastern
lute, if we play both instruments in Tunisia with the same heart
and soul, neither will be adversely affected.