The oud has over the years come to be one of my favourite instruments. I discovered it first through the music of Anouar Brahem and of Dhaffer Youssef, both North African, both jazz musicians, though very different in their approach.  And through them I came to discover a whole new world of music, one that can be both joyous and sublimely beautiful.

The oud is a fretless, pear-shaped, lute-like instrument whose origins go back several thousand years. (There is a beautiful website called Oudmigrations, created by Rachel Beckles Willson, professor of music at London University’s Royal Holloway College, that tells both of the history of the oud and of it migrations to various parts of the world.) It has come to be central to the music of North Africa, and the Arab world as well as Iran and Turkey, and many contemporary oud players have developed and enlarged what oud music can mean. It lends itself particularly beautifully to jazz. So here are a few of my favourite contemporary oud players.


Driss El Maloumi, Imtidad


Anouar Brahem, Raf Raf


Dhafer Youssef, Satyagraha


Naseer Shamma Baghdad Nights


Hussein Mohamed Aly, El Andalus


Munir Bashir, L’art du’ûd


Said Chraibi, Improvisation autour de soleimane


Tarek Abdallah & Adel Shams El-Din,
Ni Sama’I Ni Qadim


Rihab Azar, Badat Min al-Khidr



  1. Thank you for sharing this. I really do like the music of Anouar Brahem, but hadn’t heard the others. The instrument sounds so different in the hands of Dhafer Youssef.

    Have you heard the Kora? Another fantastic instrument played mostly in West Africa. I recommend listening to Toumani Diabaté.

  2. Simon Taylor

    Dear Kenan. I had the pleasure of seeing Anouar Brahem perform Blue Maqams with Dave Holland last year. The entire concert was sublime. I was amazed that the oud could be so lyrical when I had (wrongly) assumed that it tended to have a percussive quality. I shall check out some of your other recommendations. Thank you for this.

    • It was, in fact, Anouar Brahem through whom I discovered the oud. Though now, I think, my favourite oud player is probably Driss El Maloumi. Quite sublime.

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