While in European music history the organ has traditionally been regarded as the “Queen of Instruments,” it is without a doubt the oud that takes the same place in the music of the Arabic world. Few artists today have achieved greater recognition in promoting the instrument than Naseer Shamma, curator of the Arabic Music Days. As a virtuoso performer, educator, and cultural ambassador, he has not only raised the profile and visibility of the oud around the world, but also developed the instrument itself by adding and changing details of its construction. The “Oud Houses” he established in several cities across the Arabic world have become important training centers for the next generation of musicians.
For the 2023 Arabic Music Days, Shamma has invited fellow oud players and ensembles consisting of students and teachers from the Oud Houses in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere. An extensive program of film, literature, and visual art will provide additional perspectives of contemporary Arabic culture on site and online.
Poet Fowziyah AbuKhalid will accompany the concert with readings from her work.
Video starting from minute 18:15
Trust us: after attending the Arabic Music Days, you’ll be an oud expert. The short-necked lute—known as the “queen of Arabic instruments”—has played a central role in musical life throughout the Arabic-speaking world and beyond for centuries. It sparked the development of a multitude of performance styles and is the ancestor of a number of stringed instruments, including the European lute. It has also found its place in jazz and pop music, a notable example being Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. During the Arabic Music Days, you will get to know the oud in all its facets, played by some of the world’s leading virtuosos including festival curator Naseer Shamma.
Learn more about the Oud Houses founded by curator Naseer Shamma. These are centers both for training the next generation of oud players and furthering the development of the instrument itself. Short video documentaries that you can watch here introduce a group of Oud House students and graduates, many of which will perform live at the Pierre Boulez Saal. During the Arabic Music Days, luthiers from the Cairo and Abu Dhabi Oud Houses will share insights into the art of making the instruments.
Then you shouldn’t miss experiencing the truly unique atmosphere at the Pierre Boulez Saal during the Arabic Music Days. Captivating musical performances in combination with the hall’s intimate setting create thrilling musical moments that won’t keep you in your seat.
The Arabic Music Days offer a contemporary panorama of Arabic culture: as part of the concert performances, poets Fowziyah AbuKhalid (Saudi Arabia) and Lorca Sbeity (Lebanon) will read from their works, and an on-site exhibition presents sculptures by Emirati visual artist Azza Al Qubaisi. Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji’s 2022 film Hanging Gardens will be available for online streaming exclusively to all festival visitors. Last but not least, our catering partner Casalot once again offers its delicious selection of dishes of Arabic cuisine.
No? Then you should join us for the Arabic Music Days’ final concert on September 17, when Naseer Shamma takes the stage himself together with friends and former students.
After graduating from the Cairo Oud House in 2014, Islam Taha started teaching there and later took over the school’s direction. He has led the orchestra of the Oud House as well as Egypt’s first all-female oud orchestra at numerous festivals at home and abroad. As a member of Naseer Shamma’s 2350BC Orchestra and with his own ensemble Juthoor, he has given concerts in Spain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other places. He was awarded first prize and the title “king of oud” at the 2022 Oud Festival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Michael Onsy Messiha
Michael Onsy Messiha is a graduate of the Cairo Oud House. He performs in Egypt and beyond with various ensembles as well as his own project Mood of Oud, which he launched in 2019.
Azza Mandolin studied music education and taught as Egypt’s first teacher of mandolin at Naseer Shamma’s Oud House in Cairo. She has performed with various formations and as a solo artist at the Cairo Opera House, El Sawy Culturewheel, in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Lebanon, Abu Dhabi, and Spain.
Born in Egypt in 1995, Salma Mokhtar studied with Naseer Shamma at the Oud House in Cairo. She has performed with the school’s orchestra at El Sawy Culturewheel, El Manial Palace, and the Cairo Opera House, among others. Together with Naseer Shamma she has appeared in Abu Dhabi, at the Ithra Theater in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and at the 2021 Global Oud Forum.
As a poet, author, and scholar, Fowziyah AbuKhalid is among Saudi Arabia’s most important intellectual voices. In 1975, she published her controversial first volume of poetry Until When Will They Kidnap You on Your Wedding Night?. Her texts have been translated into English, German, and Italian, among other languages. In 2009, the first of nine volumes of her collected prose poems was published under the title Water of the Mirage. Holding a PhD in sociology and political science, she has taught at King Saud University and the University of Portland, among other institutions, and published numerous academic books and papers.