Strings of tradition. Ahmad Al Waisi, founder of Solo Music Institute in Jumeirah Lakes Towers Image Credit: A.K. Kallouche/XPRESS

Dubai: If you are a resident of the UAE and have not laid your hands on the king of Arabic instruments - the oud – then you have your chance now.

The Solo Music Institute in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) has started conducting oud classes as part of its effort to keep the Middle Eastern music and art alive.

“Oud is an Arabic word which means wood. It is the oldest musical instrument in the region and I have been playing it since I was 16,” says Ahmad Al Waisi, founder and teacher at the institute.

“I started the institute six months ago in the hope of promoting Middle Eastern art and music. Today there is a major influence of the West in our day to day lives. But there are people who want to go back to their roots and understand their culture better. Non-Arab expatriates too want to understand the Arabic culture and one of the ways of doing this is learning something traditional,” says Al Waisi. There are over 100 students registered at Solo, according to Al Waisi.

“Oud is not a difficult instrument to learn. In fact, one can play it fairly well within six months of training,” Waisi says.

Besides oud, another traditional art form that’s popular with the Solo students is the Arabic folk dance – Dabke.

Steeped in history

“Dabke is a popular folk dance that has its origins in the Mediterranean coastline and areas around the Tigris river. People living in the villages of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan embraced this years ago. It is a very popular dance form at weddings and traditional events. If you are in the UAE you must know the Dabke.”

British expatriate Sharon Rees, a Solo student, said she was always keen to learn the Dabke and is glad she is finally getting the chance. “I have always been curious to learn as much as I can about the Middle Eastern culture and Dabke is a fun way of doing it.”

Charges at the institute are Dh1,200 for eight oud lessons and Dh1,000 for eight Dabka lessons.