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The Art of the Oud
The Art of the Oud Munir Bashir (Photo courtesy of UMS)
What the oud means to some members of the local Arab community (2008-10-03) Michigan has the largest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East. So it seems fitting that the University Musical Society will present the music of legendary Middle Eastern oud musician, Munir Bushir in Ann Arbor this weekend. So we decided to find out what the oud means to Warren David and Wadad Abed, two people in the local Arab community.

Warren David is a third generation Arab American. He says, "the oud is like a pear shaped instrument it has ten to twelve strings. It is played with a plectra. There are no frets on it so you have to be very precise. It has a very mellow sound and it is the king of Arabic music. If you have to compare it to an American instrument it is like the piano. Like the piano is what a composer uses to compose in western music, the oud is the piano of Arabic music.

When you ad lib on an oud and play that incredible music that is coming from that musician, its not anything that is coming from structured, they are actually just expressing themselves, its actually like jazz, I can't explain the feeling, but it's almost like ecstasy."

"Anywhere you find Arab presence," says Wadad Abed, "the instrument is there."

Wadad Abed is a member of the board or University of Musical Society, UMS. She's also a member of the Arab community here in Ann Arbor.

"It immediately takes me back to childhood, to where I grew up," continues Abed. "I'm an immigrant. I came here fourty years ago, but still, there is something very powerful about the sound you grew up with. And so, as soon as I hear it, there is this sense of, I'm home. But there is also this sense of yearning because you listen to it and you realize, wow, it is really incredible. And then to listen to it with hundreds of people that in many ways are going through the same experience, it becomes a much sharper experience for me."

"Music and art is a great bridge for people to understand a people and a culture," says David. "And that given the fact of the image of the Arab or Arab American in western society today there are stereotypes there are distorted images, but you present a repertoire such as Omar Bashir playing Munirs' music, I think that whenever you listen to music or poetry or art that it humanizes a culture of a civilization."
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