Al 'Azifoon (The Musicians) Al 'Azifoon performs classical and traditional Arabic music on traditional acoustic instruments.

Middle Eastern Classics

The Instruments of
Al 'Azifoon

Brief information about some of the traditional Middle-Eastern instruments
played by the members of Al 'Azifoon.

Al 'Azifoon is on Facebook and YouTube!

Nathan Craver plays oud

OUD: Shaped like half a pear with a short fretted neck, the oud has five or six pairs (or 'courses') of strings played with a plectrum - originally a trimmed eagle's feather, but now normally made of horn or plastic - producing a deep and mellow sound. Virtuosos across the Middle East refer to it as 'the King of all instruments.' The neck of the oud is fretless, like a violin, which allows the player to produce a very expressive tone and to play any of the notes in the quartertone Arabic scales (or maqams).

The English word lute, which derives from the Spanish laud, originally came from the Arabic al-'ud, literally meaning 'branch of wood.' Between the eighth and tenth centuries, the oud had only four strings; a fifth was added in the eleventh century by Zeryab, who was originally from Baghdad and brought many innovations to the Andalusian courts of southern Spain, and a sixth later on in the fifteenth century.

For lots of great information on the oud, please see the Mike's Ouds site! There's also more oud info on the Atlas of Plucked Instruments site.

VIDEO: Paul demonstrates the oud for the Gilded Serpent at Middle Eastern Camp

Syrian made Egyptian qanun with K&K Sound Big Twin Pickup

Yosifah plays qanun

QANUN, also transliterated "Kanun": The qanun is a descendent of the old Egyptian harp and has played an integral part in Arab music since the tenth century. A kind of dulcimer, its Arabic name (from Greek) means 'rule' or 'law.' The qanun was introduced to Europe by the 12th Century, becoming known during the 14th to the 16th Century as a psaltery or zither. The form of the qanun consists of a trapezoid-shaped flat board over which 64 to 81 strings are stretched in groups of two or three to each note.

The instrument is placed flat on a table or the knees of the musician. The strings are plucked with the fingers or with two plectra, one plectrum attached to the forefinger of each hand.

Here's the Wikipedia article on the qanun.

Picture below from left:
Duff, Oud, and Two Tabla

Oud, Duff, Doumbeks that we purchased in Cairo, Egypt, 2006

TABLA, also commonly called dumbek or darbukka: The tabla has a membranophone of goat or fish skin or, most commonly these days, plastic, stretched over a vase-shaped drum with a wide neck. Usually made of earthenware or metal, it is normally held on the left leg (for right-handed players) and struck in the middle for the strong beats (dum) and on the edge for the sharp in-between beats (tek).

NOTE: the Egptian tabla is not to be confused with the Indian tabla, which is constructed and played much differently.

DUFF: The duff is a round frame drum, covered on one side with goat skin (or plastic). The duff is also called daff, deff or tar. It is played either on the knee, between the legs or held vertically by one hand. The duff generally keeps the basic rhythm but can also be played either solo or in a group to play very intricate rhythmic patterns.

Paul Ohanesian plays duff

Yosifah Rose

RIQQ: The riqq is the Arabic name for the popular instrument corresponding to the English tambourine. It consists of a round frame, covered on one side with goat or fish skin (or plastic). Pairs of metal discs are set into the frame to produce the jingle when struck by the hand. The sounds of this percussion instrument set the rhythm of much Arab music, particularly in the performances of classical pieces.

There are also many other percussion instruments used in Arabic and Middle Eastern music such as sagat (finger cymbals), mazhar (larger than a duff with cymbols, tabla baladi (large drum played with sticks, often during Zaffa wedding processions). This page only lists the ones that we most commonly perform with in our band Al 'Azifoon.

Yosifah, qanun; Nathan, oud, 2014

Learn more about traditional Arabic musical instruments at


Avci Kanun

Yosifah plays custom Avci Kanun designed and built by Ibrahim Avci.
Would you like to buy an professional acoustic or electric qanun (also transliterated "kanun"), strings, or other supplies?

Visit Avci Kanun Studio Avci Kanun Studio.

Al 'Azifoon El Morocco


Contact ~ Upcoming Shows ~ Al 'Azifoon Home Page ~ SONG LIST