Karim Bader has had a best friend for much of his 86 years, and at a time in life where many companions begin to fade away; this one will be around as long as he is.

It’s his oud.

The emblematic Middle Eastern oud, the predecessor to all stringed instruments from the lute to the Stratocaster electric guitar, was invented by a grandson of Adam (according to legend) and is, according to historical accounts, at least five thousand years old.  Characterized by a staved, bowl-like back resembling the outside of half a watermelon, three sound holes and a crooked neck, the oud’s fretless neck allows for expressive microtone melodies that are the hallmark of Arabian musical scales.  As Bader tells it, “I learned music on the violin and cello, but neither of these instruments really fulfilled me.  The oud is a like a lover or a baby; you cradle it in your arms, hold it close to you.”

Bader has played with some of the best musicians in the world in a globe-spanning career, and casually drops names like Sinatra and Danny Thomas as well as Tony Hanna—less known, perhaps, in the States, but who was in the early Seventies one of the biggest stars on the Arabic music scene.

It is said that few oud players in the world can approach Bader’s artistry and knowledge of classical and contemporary Arabic orchestration.  In 2005, in recognition for his lifetime of dedication, he was awarded the Golden Oud by the Arab American Arts Institute, and in 2006, a Michigan Heritage Award which honors Michigan citizens for excellence and authenticity in community folk traditions. 


Russell Ebeid

Flavors or the Arab World December 2nd at the Rock Financial Shwplace,
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