Oud Makers of the Past

Some of the most important oud makers of the last two centuries are listed below according to the geographical area in which they worked, where the names of present-day countries have been used to avoid confusion:



Gamil Georges (جميل جورجي)

Gamil Georges oud built in 1920 (Photo courtesy Matthias Wagner - www.lutes-strings.de). Originally from Aleppo in Syria, Georges' family later moved to Cairo where they established a workshop on Mohammed Ali Street in 1906. He built ouds for many of the leading Egyptian musicians, including Mohamed El Qasabgi and Farid al-Atrash, as well as other Arab players such as Talal Maddah. The Gamil Georges workshop still exists, but the ouds produced there are no longer built by the family and are of inferior quality.

Photo: Gamil Georges oud built in 1920 and owned by Matthias Wagner (source).

Abdul Aziz El Lethi (عبد العزيز الليثي)

Active in the first half of the 20th century, El Lethi built most of the ouds owned by Mohamed El Qasabgi.

Khalil El Gohary (خليل الجوهري)

El Gohary built the four main ouds played by Riyad Al Sunbati. He stopped producing ouds in the early 1960s, although ouds were still produced under his name after that period.

Farouk Shehata (فاروق شحاتة‎)

Shehata was an apprentice of Gamil Georges and built ouds for more than four decades. His son Maurice still runs the family oud making business in Cairo.

Fathi Amin (فتحي أمين)

Fathi Amin Ibrahim was born in the city of Aswan in 1937 and five years later his family moved to Cairo. He began building ouds as a hobby while he was still at school. In 1952 he met the luthier Ahmad Mohammad and spent four years there, before moving to Gamil George's workshop for another four years. In 1964 he opened his own workshop and over the years he has built ouds for such famous names as George Michel, Talal Maddah, Abadi al-Johar and Ahmed Fathi. Fathi Amin passed away in early 2013, leaving his son Sayed to continue the family tradition.



Nariman Abnoosi (نریمان آبنوسی‎)

Nariman Abnoosi oud. Born in 1923, Abnoosi taught himself to build ouds, as well as other stringed instruments. Perhaps the greatest fan of his instruments is the famous Iranian oud player Mansur Nariman, who even adopted the name of his favourite luthier. Abnoosi passed away in 1982, but his son Sahak continues the family business.

Photo: Nariman Abnoosi oud.

Ebrahim Ghanbari Mehr (ابراهیم قنبری مهر‎)

Ghanbari Mehr was born in 1928 and was responsible for reintroducing the traditional Persian barbat to Iranian music. He reconstructed the instrument based on early illustrations, and it was subsequently adopted by Hossein Behroozinia. He also pioneered a new type of barbat, in which part of the wooden face is replaced by animal skin.



Mohammed Fadel Hussein (محمد فاضل حسين‎)

Mohammed Fadel Hussein oud built in 1972. Mohammed Fadel is believed to have been born in 1910 and was taught the art of oud making by a maternal uncle. He established a workshop on Al-Rashid Street in Baghdad, where in 1956 he built the first floating-bridge oud for Iraqi virtuoso Munir Bashir. He became famous for this style of oud, and built instruments for more than 70 years until his death in 2002. The family tradition of oud building is continued by his sons Faik Mohammed Fadel in Iraq and Yaroub Mohammed Fadel in Tunisia.

Photo: Mohammed Fadel Hussein oud built in 1972.

Usta Ali (أسطة علي‎)

Based in Baghdad, Usta Ali built ouds for several players of the school founded by Şerif Muhiddin Targan, including Salman Shukur.



Leon Istanbuli (إسطنبولي‎ لئون)

Leon Istanbuli oud (Photo courtesy Mahmoud Korek). Athough based in Beirut, Leon Istanbuli was from an Armenian background, and his name would suggest that he moved to Lebanon from Istanbul.

Photo: Leon Istanbuli oud owned by Mahmoud Korek.

Dikran Najarian

Another Armenian oud maker who worked in Beirut in the first half of the 20th century. His grandson, Viken Najarian, continues the family tradition of oud building today in California.



Benharbit (بنحربيط‎)

Benharbit oud built in the early 20th century. As well as conventional ouds, Benharbit of Fez also built examples of the oud ramal, a four-course oud with a smaller body used in Morocco for playing traditional Arab-Andalusian music.

Photo: Benharbit oud built in the early 20th century .



Abdo George Nahat (عبده جورج نحات‎‎)

Ikhwan Nahat oud built in 1889. (Photo courtesy www.musurgia.com) Born around 1860, Abdo Nahat was one of four sons of George Yousef Nahat who followed their father into the oud making business. He first began building ouds in 1880 together with his brother Roufan (see below), and their ouds were sold under the name 'Ikhwan Nahat' (إخوان نحات = Nahat Brothers). However, Abdo later struck out on his own, and the ouds that he built carried the name 'Atelier de Menuiserie' (Carpentry Workshop). Several of his sons joined him in making ouds and in 1938 he emigrated to Brazil, where he died three years later. Abdo Nahat's ouds are today the most highly sought after of all the instruments produced under the family name, and perhaps the most famous is that played by Hamza El Din.

Photo: Ikhwan oud built in 1889 (source).

Roufan Nahat (روفان نحات‎‎)

The eldest son of George Yousef Nahat, Roufan Nahat was Abdo's partner in the 'Ikhwan Nahat' business. When the brothers went their separate ways in the early 1900s, Roufan also continued to build ouds under his own name.

Antun Nahat (أنطون نحات‎‎)

The third son of George Yousef Nahat, Antun Nahat chose to work alone rather than with his elder brothers.

Hanna Nahat (حنا نحات‎‎)

The fourth son of George Yousef Nahat, Hanna Nahat also forged his own path rather than work with his brothers. His two sons, George and Tawfiq, followed him into the oud making business (see below).

George Hanna Nahat (حنا نحات‎ ‎جورج)

Born in the 1890s, George Hanna Nahat was the son of Hanna Nahat, but he tended to produce more ornamented oud designs than his father or uncles.

Tawfiq Hanna Nahat (حنا نحات‎ ‎توفيق)

Hanna Nahat's other son, Tawfiq Hanna Nahat, produced fewer ouds than his brother George and hence is less well known.

George Hayek (حايك‎ جورجي)

Hayek (or Haik as it is sometimes spelled) built ouds at a workshop in Aleppo during the first half of the 20th century.

Sumbat Der Bedrossian (بدروسيان‎ ‎سمباط دير)

Sumbat Der Bedrossian oud. Based in Damascus, Bedrossian was active in the middle part of the 20th century. He was the father of Garabed Der Bedrossian (see below).

Photo: Sumbat Der Bedrossian oud (Photo by Captain Orange).

Garabed Der Bedrossian (بدروسيان‎ ‎قربيت دير)

Like his father, Garabed Der Bedrossian worked in Damascus, and produced ouds until at least the 1970s.



Manolis Venios (Μανώλης Βένιος)

Manol oud built in 1899 (Photo courtesy Boston Museum of Fine Arts) Better known today as Manol, Manolis Venios was born in 1845 into a Greek family living in Ortaköy, which now lies within the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul. During the Ottoman period Ortaköy was a cosmopolitan area, with communities of Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Jews. Manol originally worked as a varnisher, but when on to build ouds of exceptional quality, as well as a small number of lavtas. He took on a number of apprentices, who would go on to become famous oud makers in their own right. Manol passed away in 1914 and his ouds remain the most highly prized of all Turkish instruments.

Photo: Manol oud built in 1899 (source).

Onnik Karibyan (Օննիկ Գարիպեան)

Also known variously as Onnik Üner, Onnik Usta and Kuçüküner, he was born into an Armenian family in Thessaloniki, Greece around 1900. He later moved to Istanbul, where he established his workshop. Although he does not seem to have been an apprentice of Manol, Onnik Karibyan did copy Manol's ouds during the early part of his career. He went on to develop a reputation for quality Turkish ouds that was perhaps second only to that of Manol himself.

Hamza Usta

Hamza was born in 1884 in Tavşanlı, a town in the in Kütahya region of western Turkey. He learned to build bağlamas under his father, Ali Usta. When his father died, he moved to Istanbul, where he may have been an apprentice of Manolis Venios (Manol). Hamza Usta passed away in Istanbul in 1915.

Mihran Keresteciyan (Միհրան Քերեսթեճեան)

Born in 1865 into an Armenian family living in Niğde, central Anatolia, Keresteciyan worked on the railway until the age of 30. He then moved to Beyazit in Istanbul, where he is reported to have trained as a luthier under Aziz Mehmet Efendi, although some sources say he was an apprentice of Manolis Venios (Manol). He went on to establish his own business in Istanbul, building santurs, violins and kemençes in addition to ouds. He passed away in Kadıköyü, Istanbul in 1940.

Şamlı İskender ve Tevfik (شملي إسكندر و توفيق)

Şamlı İskender ve Tevfik oud built in 1912. The brothers Iskandar and Tawfiq (Turkicised to 'İskender ve Tevfik') originated from Damascus in Syria - indeed, 'Shamli' (Turkish: Şamlı) means 'from Damascus' in Arabic. They established a workshop in Istanbul, where they produced ouds in the early part of the 20th century. It seems that they also built ouds independently.

Photo: Şamlı İskender ve Tevfik oud built in 1912.

Kapıdağ'lı İlya (
Ηλία εκ Πέραμου)

Ilias Kanakis was born into a Greek family in the small town of Peramos on the Kapıdağ Peninsula in present-day Turkey. He established an oud making business in Istanbul, and his ouds carry the names 'Kapıdağ'lı İlya' (Ilias from Kapıdağ) and 'Ηλία εκ Πέραμου' (Ilias from Peramos). Surviving instruments suggest that he was most active in the period from 1910-1920.



Nahhat Ouds by Richard Hankey.

Armenian Oud Makers by Dr Jonathan Varjabedian.

Iranian Oud - Oud Makers by Majid Yahyanejad.

Mike's Oud Forums


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