Back in the eighth or ninth century, a famous musician called Ziryab taught concubines to play the oud (lute) and sing in Andalusia. This historical fact was narrated exaggeratedly through Orientalist paintings, in addition to movies and Arab soap operas that contributed in promoting the link between obscenity and the oud.
Nowadays, parents fall in the contradiction trap between allowing their children to enjoy their music hobby and limiting their talents within school and family, so the rest of the society won’t get a wrong idea about them. In the Kuwaiti society, a person who plays the guitar, violin or the piano is considered as classy, while oud players are looked down upon.
Girls in particular who play the oud in Kuwait are more likely to get bullied because of their passion for this musical instrument. Oud is like any other stringed instrument; however, such negative stereotypes have been chasing its reputation for hundreds of years.
Non-profit organizations such as Bayt Lothan, LOYAC and the Ministry of Education in Kuwait encourage students to practice and develop their musical talent at all academic levels. In spite of this, the “shameful” outlook hasn’t changed much in our community.
Moreover, many music instrument shops in Kuwait are stuffy with cigarette smoke and bad ventilation. They ignore the importance of creating a pleasant buying experience worthy of music as a respected art. For this reason, a girl in Kuwait might find it uncomfortable to be in these shops unless she’s accompanied by somebody, as she might be at the receiving end of piercing gazes from strangers eyeing her with suspicion.
This led Abdulaziz Al-Darmi, a music lover, to set up a better space for oud and violin lovers where they can shop, repair and learn in a modern and popular setting. Also, the oud is widespread in Kuwait, but violin players find it difficult to buy a good violin or fix their own. Enter “Strings”, a shop that targets parents and youths from a conservative background.
It is located in a place where furniture, accessories and clothing are sold together with music instruments. Darmi got enchanted by the appreciation of music in France, where he used to study. “It fascinated me how the French public are aware and interested in the violin in specific. I play both the oud and violin. I’m also a collector of old and new violins.
Whenever they saw me carrying my violin, they started asking me about it. How old is it? Where was it crafted and so on,” he said. “My passion for music led me to craft my own oud. I have my own workshop at home where I practice woodwork. I was lucky to be trained by the most famous oud maker in Kuwait, Ahmed Al-Abduljaleel,” Darmi added. Darmi has a mission to liven up the art of music, and he’s willing to organize music talks to gather professional and academic music players with amateurs. “Music is not a commodity – music transcends the soul. Therefore, the time has come for amateur musical instrument players to show their talents to the world without being ashamed,” he declared.