I’ve already lamented my lack of steady progress at learning how to play the oud so I won’t dwell on that. What I’m sharing today is the aha! moment I had while reading through some blogs this afternoon. Today’s inspiration came from Pete the Planner who was actually quoting someone else:
There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. (Ken Blanchard)
It’s no mystery that the reason my oud skills are lagging is because I’m not committed. But here’s the real secret: I didn’t want to learn how to play it because I think the oud is the most beautiful instrument in the world (that spot is taken by the mbira and the kora) but because I want to use it as a means to claim a share of my culture.
I’m of Arabic descent and grew up in Europe without learning how to speak the language. As a result, whenever I travel to Lebanon, I always feel like an outsider and somewhat diminished because I can’t partake in elaborate discourse. My family and friends have to translate a lot of things for me and I find that both frustrating and humiliating. I’ve tried learning Arabic numerous times but do not feel any connection to the language to keep my interest sustained.
Last summer, while I was in the mountains in Ehden, I listened to a man play some beautiful oud and was so moved by it when I realized I could connect to my roots through music. The fact that nobody in my immediate entourage (except an uncle) plays the instrument, or any music for that matter, was an added benefit: with everyone to support me (my parents are my cheerleading squad) and no one to patronize me, I would be free to forge my own path and build my own relationship with my “Arabism”.
The clip above is of a song I’ve been working on since the fall and that I’m still not good at.
Having said all that, I resolve and commit to play at least 30 minutes of oud on a given day before I’ll allow myself to pick up my beloved mbira. That ought to keep me accountable and focused. And, who knows, maybe one day playing the oud will feel like its own reward.