Ode to the oud

From its humble beginnings, the Oud Festival has ridden a wave of renewed interest in Middle-Eastern music.

oud festival 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Van Straten)
oud festival 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Van Straten)
There is not an excess of things, tangible or otherwise, that can transcend cultures quite as assuredly as music. Especially nowadays, with music from different countries crossing over with each other, the notes and sounds can speak to anyone who hears them without saying a word. This phenomenon will be exemplified with the Oud Festival this month, where musicians from across the spectrum will meet to perform in this tribute to the Middle Eastern instrument. From drums to strings, the sounds of Middle Eastern heritage will ring through the Tzavta Theater when the culture of the oud's region and history comes to Tel Aviv from August 23-27. This will be the seventh festival dedicated to the oud, a Middle Eastern string instrument with a sound similar to that of toned-down flamenco. It promises to bring fusion and a wealth of diverse artists to delight the ears and eyes of Israeli and international audiences alike. The 24 oud musicians will play with a variety of accompaniments, including bands, orchestras, and singers, and will have a number of different styles. According to Eli Greenfield, the artistic manager of the festival, "This year the Oud Festival is breaking barriers and styles … The festival nurtures a connection between generations of players and musicians old and young, that together create combinations of music that are surprising and fascinating." While the focus of the festival will be its ode to the oud, it also presents a number of artists that incorporate both Jewish and Arabic ethnic music. Unlike the previous festivals, though, this year will also exhibit musicians in the genres of pop, rock, rap, and poetry. Included in the impressive lineup of Israeli and global singers are actor-turned-singer Guy Zoaretz, the highly decorated singer-songwriter Arkadi Duchin, lead singer of Teapacks Kobi Oz, actress Galit Giat, Habrera Hativeet bandleader Shlomo Bar, the Arabian-influenced Dikla, longstanding Ahuva Ozeri, Palestinian rapper Saz, and poet Rabbi Haim Louk, among others. The closing act of the festival will be a tribute to its creator, Jo Amar, who died last month in New York. Amar, his own music a paragon of fusion and crossovers, left a rich and influential legacy. The festival takes place at the Tzavta Theater, Rehov Ibn Gvirol 30, Tel Aviv, from August 23 - 27; (03) 695-0156 for tickets.