CULTURE Lute manufacturing in Baghdad resists extinction


Lute manufacturing in Baghdad resists extinction


07:23, September 16, 2018


Sinan Samir, 45, plays traditional lute in his workshop on August 26, 2018 in Rasheed Street in downtown Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo: Xinhua)

BAGHDAD, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Combination of soft music with hammer sounds can be heard at the entrance of Awadeen Souq, or Lute Players Market, at an old alley on heritage Rasheed Street in downtown Baghdad.

The traditional market specialized with manufacturing Iraqi hand-made instrument of lute, or Oud in Arabic. The old market has been struggling after years of security and economic troubles since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

In one of the old shops, customers would enjoy a fascinated view of photos of well-known Iraqi artists and intellectuals who visited the market in the past.

The shop owner crowns his warm welcome with nice playing on the strings of a lute.

Ali al-Abdali, in his 60s, is the owner of a lute manufacturing workshop who has been in the field for 40 years. He inherited the profession from his father Mohammed al-Abdali, one of the well-known lute maker in Iraq.

He said the golden period of lute industry in modern Iraq was 1970s and 1980s. During that time, cultural and artistic activities as well as music clubs flourished throughout the whole year. Academic studies of fine arts also expanded in many institutes and colleges across the country.

"Hundreds of Arab and non-Arab foreign artists as well as tourists, who are fond of our traditional musical instrument, used to visit our market to buy our distinctive hand-made lutes, which were made by many reputable lute makers," Abdali said.

Amir Ali al-Awad, 50, started his lute maunufaturing career under guidance of a veteran lute maker in 1984.

"I've loved this career which I gave it all my time and efforts to learn utmost skills needed to be creative as possible as I can, because I adore music and especially lute instrument which charms me with its tunes," Awad told Xinhua at the entrance of an old shop where he started his career 34 years ago.

Awad said that lute industry in Iraq is "as ancient as the history of civilizations in Iraq."

"The ancient lute instrument was very simple, they hollow a piece of wood and then fix strings on it, but as time passes, it developed to what we know now," Awad said.

Sinan Samir, 45, a lute workshop owner, told Xinhua "lute manufacturing needs experience, high accuracy and knowledge of wood types."

Manufacturing lute needs several stages starting from choosing the type of wood, slicing and curving them to make the main concave shape, Samir said.

"A single Oud (lute) takes a week with eight hours work a day, the weight of the Oud should not normally exceed one kilogram, that's for skillful manufacturer," Samir added.

Samir said that during 1970s and 1980s, his father sold lutes to many tourists and artists.

"But things changed after 2003 due to deterioration in security and economic situations," Samir complained while continued in working on a new lute in his workshop.

"The deterioration after 2003 hit all life aspects in Iraq, including lute industry, as violence, political conflicts and extremism distorted life of Iraqis." Hassan Ibrahim, 65, a lute player, told Xinhua.

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