The Oud is an instrument that is at least 3,000 years old. Pear-shaped now with 11 strings, five pairs, and one bass, it is the primary instrument in Arabic music, and over the millennium it has given birth to the lute and the guitar. In the past 20+ years, it is increasingly heard in jazz settings with open-minded musicians. The Arabic and Persian word for drum is tabla. It’s called Darbuka, Doumbek, and Tombek depending on your geographic region. Typically, they are goblet-shaped drums although the word can also refer to frame drums. Along with different sized tambourines and cymbals, they comprise the percussion world of the Middle East. The use of flutes, reeds, and violin provide additional colors.

Music from the Arab world has been around for centuries but there was no notation and so it was passed down through the generations. Because Arabs were great travelers, their music reflected their encounters with the larger world. Interestingly, the Koran prohibits music but cultures found ways to finesse that. When we hear the oud and the drums as well as evocative singers we are transported into the mysterious (to us Westerners) Islamic world of music with all its nuance and depth.

Increasingly, musicians classically trained in Arabic music have found welcome collaborators in the jazz world as together they explore the confluences between and across the two different styles of improvisation.

The Jazz River travels across the Islamic Diaspora, presenting traditional music as well as showcasing the fusion between Arabic and jazz approaches to improvisation and cross-pollination. It’s a captivating journey you’ll want to take. Tune in Sunday, January 31, at 5 pm for The Music of Islam and Arabic Jazz only in KUVO JAZZ.

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