Resonance: Musical Heritage of La Francophonie Previous   Next


Ud arbi
Made by Mohamed Hédi Bellasfar
Tunis, 2000
Canadian Museum of Civilization

Audio Excerpt

Music: Tahar Gharsa. Anthologie du Malouf tunisien, La Nûba H'çin, Ministère de la Culture, République Tunisianne

  Ud arbi - CMC no. 2000.144 / Photo: Harry Foster


The lute is common to several countries in North Africa and the Middle East. This one is characteristic of Tunisia. Its proportions, its tuning, the materials used to make it and the number of strings distinguish it from the Middle Eastern lute (ud sharqi). The pear-shaped body of the ud arbi is narrower, rounded and composed of 12 to 20 ribs of very thin wood. The one seen here has an oak soundboard and three openwork roses. It is played with a plectrum made from an eagle feather cut in half lengthwise. The ud arbi accompanies Tunisian music of the classical tradition, of which one of the best-known forms is the nouba, a poetic and musical suite consisting of several instrumental and vocal pieces that must be performed at a specific moment in the day. Some of the songs that accompany the ud arbi in the nouba deal with love, nature and wine, while others, devoted to religious subjects, advocate piety and implore divine mercy.