This year's Oud Festival is an object lesson in patience and considered evolution. Founded in 2000 by Jerusalem's Confederation House, it was a modest two-day affair with about half a dozen acts. Nine years and an Intifada later the festival now spans over two weeks (November 20-December 4) and incorporates no less than 15 shows, both local and from abroad. While the epithet "oud" is certainly no misnomer, there is far more to the festival than just the 11-stringed fretless forerunner of the lute. Also reflected at the festival is the instrument's geographical and cultural spread. Although the oud is traditionally considered as an Arabic instrument, it's also popular in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran. And, the lute is a prominent fixture in western European baroque and renaissance music. Next week's festival offers plenty to choose from - for all kinds of musical tastes. There are shows to feed off Jewish and Arabic roots, such as the Golden Age festival opener fronted by Etti Ankri, and vocalist Violet Salameh's December 2 tribute to the three great divas of Arab classical music Oum Koulthoum, Layla Morad and Asmahan. The diverse cultural domain of the oud results in all manner of ethnic bridging efforts, such as the November 23 Ha-Ben Ish Hai concert, which offers an intriguing mix of Jewish music and Islamic devotional kawali music that derives from Pakistan and India. There's more from India in the closing act of the festival, with the "Music and Poetry from Rajasthan" concert with an Indian sextet performing mystical poems and love songs from that country's North. But, the festival frontrunner has got to be the confluence of three master musicians - Turkish oud maestro Yurdal Tokcan, Irish-born Cretan resident lyre master Ross Daly and stellar Israeli percussionist Zohar Fresco - on November 26. Add to this mix shows with Jewish music from Syria, Turkish folk music, a synergy between Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures from Sicily and Persian liturgical music and you get a lineup that does justice to the vast musical domain of the oud. For more information visit confederationhouse.org or call (02) 624-5206.