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Iraqi Musical Instruments: Oud, Santur, Joza

Iraq is infamous for a variety of types of art, one of the more prevalent being music. Music exists in many forms within the country and has seen an interesting progression from historical melodies – known as maqams – to more contemporary music in the genres of pop, rock, soul, and urban. The country is recognised mainly for three instruments: the Oud, the Santur, and the Joza.

oud instrument Iraq music
The Oud

The oud is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument which comes in various types, depending on the number of strings attached to it. In the historic Mesopotamian era, the oud had a far more simplistic design; a small musical box with three strings. As time went on, the instrument evolved to make the modern-day oud used today. Some famous Iraqi oud players include Nasser Shamma, Munir Bashir (also known as “The King of Oud”), and Ahmed Mukhtar.

The Santur

The Santur is a 92-string instrument, deriving in ancient Mesopotamia. Its earliest recorded use comes from Assyrian and Babylonian stone carvings, dated around 669 BC, which shows the instrument being played whilst hanging from the player’s neck. Throughout the years, the instrument has been spread around the Arab, Asian, and North African world, resulting in modified version originating in each country. It is the main instrument used in classical Iraqi maqam, alongside the Joza.


The Joza/Rebab

The Joza, also known as Rebab, although originating in Persia, spread via Islamic trading routes to North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Europe, turned into what is now known as the modern-day violin. There are three main types of Joza;

1. The spike fiddle, which has a long neck and a spike at the bottom to rest on the ground.

2. A short-necked variant.

3. A pear-shaped variant, which travelled to Europe in the 11th century and became the rebec.


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Article written by Arshi Syed, story teller at Dabloom.

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