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.

The Western 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.

The paired 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.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Centre des recherches et études andalouses, Centre des musiques arabes et méditerranéennes Ennejma Ezzahra, Musée de la musique, Laboratoire de recherche des musiques du monde, Musée acadien de l'Université de Moncton, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Musée d'art et d'archéologie de l'Université d'Antananarivo, Musée ethnographique Alexandre Sènou Adande, Musée national du Mali, St. Boniface Museum, Lycée de langues étrangères Alexandre Dumas, Museum of the Romanian Peasant

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