Beirut – “Al-Quds Al-Arabi”: Albert Mansour’s tenderness as the tone of the lutes he makes. Loving, passionate about this instrument with which he feels calm and beauty. Its production is limited, because it gives each stage of the old industry its due and a grain of musk. The Oud is not handed over to the student except when he is satisfied with his eyes and ears for his new baby.
Albert Mansour is a prominent figure in the antiques industry in Lebanon and the Arab world. The late Mohamed Fadel formed his compass in this vessel. Hopes to meet him in Iraq did not succeed. Fadel passed away and Mansour grieved, and by chance he reunited with his son in Lebanon, and he was very happy.
The mechanic who specializes in American cars developed his beautiful craft with the help of his profession, and he achieved many achievements. He is proud that the lute made by his hands melts in the arms of his player, and he does not strive not to “fade”. He gathered an abundance of love and affection, and spread his discoveries to every liquid. He did not monopolize knowledge, nor negotiate a price.
With Albert Mansour this conversation:
○ Various modifications have been made to the oud, especially to hug it without “moving”. To know about this modification?
• Editing took me a lot of time. Since I was young I carried the lute and hummed, and I noticed the “disruption” of it. Most rods have the same quality, with all due respect to their makers. My desire to make the oud motivated me to do research. The most important maker is the great Iraqi Muhammad Fadel. I was working in Kuwait and while traveling through Iraq on my way to Lebanon, or vice versa, I asked about him, and I couldn’t find anyone to lead me to him. This is what caused my suffering, especially since he left and I did not meet him. But I came back and met his son Faeq, who was on a visit to Lebanon and wanted to know how I aged a bowl so he wouldn’t get “lost”. I told him that I learned it from your father, may God have mercy on him. In fact, I was very impressed by Mohamed Fadel’s making of the oud, and the back shape of the bowl. Odeh had a beautiful role, but the problem remained from below, which varied between 40 and 38 cm. And she was with Faeq a session that stretched for hours in my professional. After examining the Oud of Muhammad Fadel, I asked myself about the way that allows me to keep the bowl of the oud and adjust it so that it becomes smaller? I went through months of testing until I reached the current oud form.
○ And what were the steps to shorten its presentation?
• You know that I love auto mechanics and I learned it. I tried to apply the equations of car mechanics to the manufacture and development of the oud. And when I have a dilemma she sleeps in bed with me so I can sort it out. One night I found the solution, and early in the morning in the attic, I implemented the idea before leaving for my job at the mechanic’s garage at eight o’clock. The idea is to put the oud in the bowl area to be thin. After the success of the first oud, many people asked about the “sweet ringing roll”. And “How did they eat this sweet crunch”? Yes, the stability of the oud in the lap is a beautiful quality and I am very proud of it. The method of rolling the oud has been passed down to all the buds active in this craft. I even taught a young man from Egypt how to make the oud via WhatsApp, and I used a cardboard as a model. Albert Mansour continues and laughs: Will I have a monopoly on this innovation? Is it an atomic invention?
○ Does the old industry consider the size of the player?
• Sure, and we ask about the height of the person and the length of his hand. The hand is placed on the racket, not in front of it. It is harmony, harmony and harmonics in music and form as well.
○ How do you read about lute mechanics and car mechanics?
• The mechanism is the same. Adjustment of the springs, and the method of “cutting” them This is the logic of the mechanics. And of course imagination plays a role. When I begin to make a lute, I convey it through the image drawn to it in my mind, as if I am “placing” it. Just like someone sculpting a statue out of a 10 ton rock based on the image in his imagination. Our achievements are the result of imagination, imagination and love.
○ They praise the keys of your sticks as “don’t let go.” What is the secret?
• I used to play hum and oud, and I could have become a good player. But I broke my hand off the knuckle, broke my back, and sometimes the feather falls off my hand. My hand is no longer light on the lute. It had a negative effect on my game. After this incident, I could not catch the oud for two years. To get back to the keys, they needed a lot of effort to move, and then to focus in place. May God have mercy on the great musician friend Saeed Salam, he kept a cup of water and cotton buds near him when he played, and after tuning, he moistened the clappers with water so that they would not escape. The mechanic helped me change the position of the lute keys.
To explain the change in the keys to focus in their place, Albert Mansour asked his assistant Jamal to give him the “Bangak not mounted”.
And he continues his explanation: I scratched the location of the keys on the bangs and on both sides. Thus, the distance within which the key works has been reduced to 3 mm instead of a centimeter.
○ What about tendons and their quality?
• There are many types of music, and each player wants a specific type of it.
○ What is the old made of?
• From the bowl, the face, the ulna, the muzzle, the mare and the nose where the strings are attached, which are made of bone or ivory. However, the latter declined due to the ban on hunting elephants. On the face of the oud, where the hand is supported, I added a piece of wood to preserve its face and its beauty.
○ How long does it take to make a lute?
• After the request is received and the details agreed upon, the audit takes three months to complete. My work is personal and manual, and I do not own a factory with a beehive. I even paint agarwood. Most importantly, I don’t get paid upfront to start the business. I wait for the completion of the lute. If its voice convinces me, I decide to hand it over to its owner. Love makes everything.
○ How many chords for the lute?
• 6 or 7 and some of them ask for more. I completed the 9-string Oud by Mostafa Saeed, at his request. Mostafa Saeed is a very famous artist, for whom I have made 17 olds so far. Recently he asked for a new one.
○ And what does he do with them all?
• They are his sons. Allocate an air-conditioned room for his sticks. He enters the room and knows which sticks he wants. And each of them has a name, Al-Sunbati, Al-Qasbaji and other famous ancients in the Arab world. After a long stay in Lebanon to study and work, Mustafa Saeed returned to his homeland, Egypt.
○ Have others surpassed Mustafa Saeed in acquiring lutes?
• Never the first. Afif Merhej completed 4 wickets. and 5 for Ziad Ahmadiyya. Walsami Hawat 3.
○ And Marcel Khalife?
• That red stick by Marcel Khalife, and the other one on the opposite side.
○ Why are there sticks in your garden?
• Needs some maintenance. These are sticks that he only uses at home for composing, not for parties.
○ Is there one for the theater and another for the home?
• The oud prefers that we play its strings softly, so that the musician and those around him can hear his voice, not necessarily the upstairs neighbors. With all due respect, today’s fashion is the old “that screams”.
○ Who taught you “craft” besides your assistant, Jamal?
• Joseph, a new young man, began to go to the studio. He owns a flower shop, and he insisted on learning how to make the oud. He has been going to the professional every day for three years, as if he is on an official job.
○ How many Ouds were born into this profession?
• Unfortunately, I don’t know. But I know the maximum is 7 sticks per year. I do not accept the factory method in my work.
○ What about your first lute and when was it born?
• It was in 1987, and here he is, hanging in the corner and “leading me to it”. It is not yet complete.
○ Who intends to achieve this?
• Never stay the same.
○ What about the origin of the oud, Arabic, Persian or Turkish?
• Lots of views. The odds of old birth rates are high and have not yet been confirmed. As an ex-maker, I care more about its current state and how it came to be than about its origin and its separation. Alhamdulillah, the oud is in good health and has proven its existence, and is present in the largest orchestras. Mostafa Saeed recently held a party in Spain and he prepared a piece of music for Vivaldi to be played on the mandolin, which was replaced by the lute.
○ Is there a syndicate for oud makers in Lebanon?
• There is no union or grouping, everyone works alone.
○ How many stick makers?
• An illusion is increasing. The love for old grows. The most beautiful kind of industries are musical instruments, if only they were better than the industries of murder.
○ Who made the most beautiful old?
• They all make a beautiful oud, and each oud has a beautiful voice. Whatever the condition of the oud, a good player will bring out a soulful sound from it.
○ Beautiful oud sound with the saying “nights”. Who do you like that said it?
• The sound of the oud is beautiful in all cases. There are oldies that tug at the listener from within because of its beauty and passion. The loud and powerful sound of the oud is loved by some and is in demand on stage. The advantage of the oud is that it gives us its sound, just as the guitar or the violin gives its sound. However, we do not have the right to change the lute into a guitar or piano, as this is not acceptable. If we go back to the nights, all those who passed in ancient times said it with beauty and joy, Saleh Abdel Hai and his son Abdel Hai Helmy, together they are among the most beautiful of those who said it. Unfortunately, there are no night singers in our time. Some of the newbies say that at night, and we wish they didn’t.
○ In the past we heard pieces on the oud by Abdel Wahhab, Al-Sunbati, Farid Al-Atrash or Al-Qasbaji and distinguished between them. What do you think of that stage and who do you love from the masters of old?
• God watered those days. Personally, Oud and Qasabji play form my obsession and love. All those I have mentioned have a distinctive imprint in the world of old. And thanks to everyone who gave humanity a beautiful tune. It remains for man to distinguish between the musicians, and here I am inclined towards Al-Qasbaji. This is human nature.
○ What about the honor you recently received at the Goethe Institute?
• Years ago I filmed a film about the old industry for the Music Documentation Foundation in Qornet al-Hamra. It was an integrated film from the ground up about the old industry, and its length was one hour and three quarters. A simple, delicious and far from fake movie, it was screened at various festivals in Europe. I apologized for not attending the tribute as I was ill.