Oud to Joy: Getting Your Start as a Karaite Oud Player

Farid al-Atrash sings Gamil Gamal

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Of all the songs below, Yah Zimrati is the most difficult to play.
  3. 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.


Filed under Oud

4 Responses to Oud to Joy: Getting Your Start as a Karaite Oud Player

  1. Zvi

    I think you will need to do even more to ensure Qaraite Judaism’s survival beyond an internet presence — to be so bold as to find the way to play music in the synagogues, including on Mo`adim (with the exception of Yom haKippurim and the “minor” fast days) and Shabbatot, without violating them by tuning the instruments or fixing them during those days.

  2. Bob Radus

    Zvi: the way to ensure Karaite Judaism’s survival is to get communities started. The trick to be able to contact both Karaim and people who would be interested in Karaism in the local area. My name is Bob Radus and I live Orange County CA. There are a few Karaim here; however, I am having trouble finding them. There are a couple on Zoomisha Shabbat. I have a 6 month ad running in the OC JLife magazine. It began in Feb 2021. Take a look. If you know any Karaim or interested persons in the OC, let me know. /s/ Bob
    Cell/VM (leave message) 714-271-2865. srr@actforensic.com

  3. Keren De Torno

    Shalom Shaun
    Congratulations on your purchase of an oud and having success on your pursuit of learning to make it speak meaningfully to you! I was blessed to be there at the Daly City opening to witness the talented oud artist and the plucky sounds of that intriging instrument being emitted, which was warm, rich, deep, and inviting. Up to that date, I had never seen one in person or heard it in person, only on you tube vids or an audio recording. But, I too was fascinated with its unique sound.
    Now you have peaked my interest in finding out more, and why you selected the syrian oud over any other to purchase, and would you expond more and explain the core differences in the varities of ouds offered? I most commonly see them as being described or named by a Nationality of Origin. Is this due to where the oud maker is located, or because that country has a traditional or historical different oud structure or design for their oud from another? Are there actual differences in these ouds regarding their musical characteristics or features? I realize that every country has indiginous tree woods, which clearly factors individauality in each of the woods density and malleability, and making the belly frame sound quality vary somewhat depending on it being in a gradient from soft to hard woods being used. Also, asthetically, each piece of wood has its own one of kind beauty and grain characteristics, and color, values and tones, not to mention the artistic ornamentation that are embedded into some of these ouds. Some are visual pieces of art iwth mosiacs, mother of pearl inlays and veener work!
    But, what is the distinguishing instrument functional factors of difference between them being named for sale as an oud instrument as; an Arabic, Syrian, Eqyptian or Turkish oud?
    And at the Daly City opening, which of these varietals were being played?

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