When we were talking about the Arabian Oud last week for our #ThrowbackThursday post we mentioned an even older instrument, the Barbat, and left you with the teaser “of which more on another occasion”.
Well, the good news is that this is the occasion.
The barbat is one of the oldest instruments in the world and is thought to have originated in Central Asia. A two-stringed lute, the barbat was an important instrument of the Arab Ghassanids in pre-Islamic times. The earliest image thought to be of the barbat dates back to the 1st century BC from ancient northern Bactria; although there is a clearer image of it from a Gandharan sculpture dating between the 2nd-4th centuries AD.
According to Encyclopedia Iranica, this type of instrument may have been introduced by the Kushans and later adopted by the Persians. Whatever it’s origins, by the 7th century, the barbat was developed by the Arabs into the oud.
We hope you’ll forgive the poor quality picture under the circumstances.
Today’s #ThrowbackThursday instrument is the Oud. And whilst it’s a bit too niche for us to have in The Old Dairy, one of our directors does have one at home.
It’s thought that the oud dates from the pharaonic era with one writer crediting Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam himself, with its invention. Naturally, there’s no historical evidence to support that accreditation.
The oud, and the European lute, is thought to have descended from an even more ancient instrument – the barbat (of which more on another occasion). Although related to the lute, the oud is easily differentiated from it by its lack of frets and smaller neck. Both the lute and oud are thought to be ancestors of the guitar.
In modern terms there are two distinct types of oud; Arabic and Turkish. The former are larger and therefore naturally produce a fuller, deeper, sound. The latter is not only smaller, and therefore higher in tone, but tuned a whole tone higher than its Arabic counterpart. Other differences are that the Turkish Oud is more lightly constructed, has an unfinished soundboard, lower action, and the strings closer together.
The oldest known example of the oud currently resides in the Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments.