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DJEDDAH: The Saudi Arabia Music Commission is in the process of establishing an institute to train the musical talents of the country.

Bait Al-Oud seeks to be a learning center for musicians so that they can obtain the required training to play traditional Arabic instruments and be informed about the role of the instruments in the development of the musical culture of the region.

The oud, which dates back over 3,000 years, is one of the oldest and most important stringed instruments in the musical heritage of the Arab world and has played an important role throughout history.

The commission aims to make the institute a world-renowned center, to promote awareness of Arab musical instruments, in particular the oud, and to preserve the heritage of Arab music.

“The oud is one of the most important musical string instruments,” oud player Hasan Iskandrani told Arab News. “He has been called the ‘sultan of instruments’ and is generally used by composers to shape their melodies.”

Traditional Arabic musical instruments such as oud, duf, rebab and mizmar, which are used in many different celebrations in the kingdom, have played a major role in establishing the musical culture of the country and its different forms of musical expression.

There are different types of oud – including Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian, and Turkish – and it is played in different styles across the region.

Over the past decades, the Kingdom has become home to talented composers, singers and oud players.

Many people in the Kingdom appreciate the work of Abadi Al-Jowhar, known as the “octopus of the Oud”.

Alongside Al-Jowhar are Talal Salamah and Aseel Abu Bakr Saleem who to this day are influencing a new and emerging generation of Saudi oud players.

The oud has the particularity of being fretless and pear-shaped. It is traditionally made from light wood, has a short neck, and is normally constructed with 11 strings.

Being fretless, the oud is considered a versatile instrument that gives musicians the freedom to produce smoother notes without having to retune.

And, unlike other stringed instruments which usually have a large hole in the center, the oud can have up to three holes, giving it its distinctive and spellbinding air.

This makes it ideal for musicians to play the maqam, a melodic structure system used in traditional Arabic music.

And, like other ancient musical instruments, the oud has its own fans and admirers who love to listen to its tunes.

But, without some great music masters, the oud legacy would probably have been lost. We cannot talk about the instrument without mentioning the legends that have made it what it is today.

The oud has been played by eminent musicians, from the “king of the oud” Fared Al-Atrache, to Marcel Khalifeh in Lebanon, Munir Bashir and Naseer Shamma in Iraq and Mohamed Al-Qasabgi in Egypt.

There are many beliefs about the origin of the instrument. It is believed to have evolved from the Persian barbat and was used during the Kassite period and in Babylon in Mesopotamia, which then made its way to Europe via North Africa.

The institute, which will be run by an elite group of musicians, also aims to be a regional hub for Saudis of all ages to learn and develop techniques for playing Arabic musical instruments.

“The Bait Al-Oud Institute will contribute to the development of different types of stringed instruments. In addition, it will encourage the development of young musical talent, ”Iskandrani said. “Through the institute, it will be a forum for great music legends and new emerging musicians to share ideas, experiences and culture for continued development.”

The institute will also serve as a platform for musicians to share and perform their musical projects with an audience that enjoys listening to oud performances.

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