Ziyad al Harbi: The master OUD player

He is one of today’s leading Oud artists from Oman. An accomplished composer and singer who despite majoring in Maritime Business and Logistics Management has thrived in music and the art. But asked Ziyad al Harbi anything about the oud, a beautiful Arab musical instrument, and he can go on and on about what makes it special and how the strings sing out the most beautiful of tunes. For as long as he can remember, he has always been in love with music. “I was six when I began with music. Keyboard then was the main instrument being taught in school so that is where I had the opportunity to perform as well,” he said.
Far from the amateur keyboard pianist of his younger self, Ziyad is now a cultural ambassador of Oman giving people the Omani experience wherever he goes. The musical notes he played echoes the composition and the melody of the centuries that had long since passed. His oud-career began after he joined the Oriental Band, an initiative of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. “At that time, the Ministry of Heritage was also looking into Youth Affairs. I noticed that everyone who played the Oud was very much in the spotlight because that is the nature of the instrument. So it was self-learning at first and that led to knowing the musical instrument. My discovery began around 2002-2003,” Ziyad, who is also a member of the East Strings Band, shared.
His path towards becoming an Oud master was set after he became the first Oud player in the world to perform in an Italian Opera. “The Opera” was a co-production by Royal Opera House Muscat and Palau de Les Arts Reina Sofia Valencia. “This was a new and an extraordinary operatic production that presented the history of this great art with young singers from the Centre de Perfeccionament Placido Domingo singing well-known arias of the great composers together with Oud performance led by the well-known composer and conductor Maestro Steven Mercurio. My biggest moment came when the conductor himself came to perform with me by playing the guitar,” recollected Ziyad.
Representing Omani culture and music, Ziyad has now travelled to at least 20 countries some of them includes the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, China, India, South Korea and various other Arab countries and GCC countries.
In 2014, he was awarded the Gulf Cooperation Council Medallion –‘GCC’s Youth Musician’ and in 2015 he was also awarded by the National Youth Committee of Oman for his Musical achievements. In 2017 Ziyad was awarded by the Omani Oud Hobbyist Association as the ‘The Best Member’ for the years of 2015 and 2016.
“We are truly blessed in Oman to have the attention given by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos to Oud. The Oud Hobbyist Association is a wonderful gift. It has brought together hundreds of Oud enthusiasts. There are good musicians today who are receiving recognition,” pointed out Ziyad.
At the O Show, Ziyad played the piano at the lobby of the Muscat Intercontinental Hotel, a rendition of a song sung by Abdul Majid Abdullah.
“I was not into singing but when I was studying in the Netherlands, my friends urged me to sing as well because I did not have a singer to accompany me for the Oud concert. So I started off and then built on experience. I use the piano mainly for my composing sessions. If you are a composer you also have to sing as well to get the feel right,” he said.
Music has helped in many ways said Ziyad from communication skills to discipline and personal planning.
Many studies have proven that music stimulates the brain and helps in activating both sides of the brain.
“Although many parents think it might disturb the children’s studies, I recommend parents to encourage any hobby or talent in children because, in the end, it is very supportive in developing many skills,” he said.
In a few days time, Ziyad will be heading to Dhofar Governorate to conduct research on the traditional music of Oman.
Asked about his dream, he said, “I think there is no such limitation for any musician to dream because music is a huge world. My big dream is to be a conductor for a concert full of my compositions with a big orchestra and have major shows.”