A few years ago, when David Ovadia and Maryellen Himmel-Ovadia threw the grand-reopening events for the Karaite Jews of America’s synagogue and the launching of the Karaite Jewish Cultural Center in Daly City, California, they brought in an oud player to add some joy to the festivities. I was skeptical. I thought there was no this would resonate with American born Karaites. It was, at best, a tip of the cap to the Egyptian roots of the community. Or so I thought.
The sound was rich and beautiful. I knew then that I wanted to play the oud. But I had no immediate catalyst for getting started. It was not until the project I am working on to revive and reinvigorate Karaite music that I found that impetus. I’ll tell you more about that project in the future.
Today, just as an aside, I want to tell you that if Karaite Judaism is going to survive (and thrive) into future generations, *in addition* to books about why we are “right” (and you can buy a bunch of them at The Karaite Press), we will also need Karaite food and music.
Back to the oud. The song that made we want to play the oud was Yeter Peletat Am. Just listen to this spectacular introduction and song.
If that does not move you to want to play the oud, this post is not for you. If it does so move you, let me help you get started.
First, you need an Oud. I bought a Syrian oud, an oud pick (“risha”), and stand from SalaMuzik.
Second, you need to learn to hold the oud and risha, and understand the basic hand motions. I found that Gad Tidhar does a great job in this video (and Gad has many other videos to help improve technique).
Izif has some great lessons as well
Next you need someone to teach you how to play Karaite songs on the oud. That’s what this post is for. The Karaite Jews of America has actually published oud lessons for five songs. I have embedded them below.
Three more notes before we finish the post:
- There are more oud lessons coming, and they will be published at the Karaite Jews of America’s YouTube Channel in the Oud Lesson playlist.
- Of all the songs below, Yah Zimrati is the most difficult to play.
- Many of the songs you are familiar with are written to the same poetic meter – so once you know how to play a few melodies on the oud, you can actually fit several different songs into them. (For example, Ki Eshmera Shabbat, Ode La’el Mahsi, Yeter Peletat Am, and many others share the same meter.)
I’d be remiss not to mention that when I was a young child, my father used to sing to me the famous song Gamil Gamal, by Farid al-Atrash. It was only recently, during this oud journey, that I learned that Farid Al-Atrash was an oud virtuoso.
Well, there you have it. Once the we are all vaccinated and it’s safe. We should do a Karaite Oud players convention.