Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.b.16

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic have nominated Crafting and playing the Oud (No. 01867) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The oud is a traditional, lute-type instrument played in Iran and Syria. The musician places the short-necked instrument on their leg, fretting with one hand and plucking the chords with the other. In both countries, the oud consists of a pear-shaped sound box made of walnut, rose, poplar, ebony or apricot wood. Crafting an oud takes up to twenty-five days, during which the wood is left to dry and harden and is then treated with water and steam for fifteen days to build its durability. Ouds are crafted in different sizes for different sized-bodies and decorated with wooden carvings and mosaic patterns. They typically have five twin strings, though a sixth string can be added. With its bass and baritone ranges, the instrument can produce melodic and harmonic tones. The oud is played solo or in ensembles and is accompanied by traditional songs and dance in a wide range of events. Its practice is transmitted through apprenticeships and in musical centres, colleges and universities in urban areas. Crafters are mostly men, although in recent years young women have developed an interest as well.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The oud is a musical instrument that is historically deeply rooted in the region, and is played in a wide range of events, including weddings, cultural events, festivals, family gatherings and funerals, accompanied by traditional songs and dance. It serves as an identity-marker in both Iran and Syria. In Iran, the bearers include performers, instrument-makers and instructors, and the knowledge is transmitted through apprenticeships, instructional method books and craft studios. In Syria, the bearers include musicians, composers, craftspeople, master craftspeople and their junior apprentices. The knowledge is transmitted through non-formal training by master craftspeople, or through formal training programmes. The oud is played at ritual ceremonies in Iran and creates empathy between tribes. Similarly, in Syria, the oud unites families and communities from different backgrounds and social classes, strengthening cohesion and inclusion.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription will connect local communities to the 2003 Convention. At the national level, it will demonstrate that intangible cultural heritage can contribute to a shared cultural identity, while encouraging practitioners of other intangible cultural heritage elements, such as craftspeople and musicians, to collaborate on safeguarding efforts. At the international level, inscription will give greater visibility to diverse musical intangible cultural heritage elements around the world and highlight that intangible cultural heritage can be a tool for international cooperation and building links between communities across state borders. In terms of human creativity, the element is associated with the high precision and creativity of its craftspeople.

R.5:   The element was included in the Iranian National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in February 2019. The inventory is updated on a three-year basis. In Syria, the element was included in the National Inventory for Syrian Intangible Cultural Heritage elements, which is updated every two years, in March 2017. The inventories are maintained by the respective ministries of the submitting States. The inventorying process involves oud musicians, cultural experts, researchers and other representatives.

  1. Further considers that, from the information included in the file and the information provided by the submitting States Parties through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.3:   The file provides information on past and current safeguarding efforts from each submitting state, including training course, concerts and documentation efforts. Past joint safeguarding measures include joint Iran-Syria concerts, joint publication of music CDs and research efforts. The proposed joint safeguarding measures include organising music festivals between the two countries, exchanging traditional knowledge of crafting and playing the oud between master practitioners, joint research projects and broadcasting of both countries' Oud programmes. In addition, each submitting State Party provided proposed safeguarding efforts for their respective states. In Syria, the communities and bearers concerned have led the process of the nomination, including suggesting, amending and approving the safeguarding measures. Iran clarified through the dialogue process that Oud crafters and players participated in workshops which included the discussions on the current situation of the element from the practitioner's perspective, and the proposal of future safeguarding measures to ensure the continued strong presence of the Oud.

R.4:   In Iran, the NGO Iranian House of Music organized a group of Oud player/crafters who are geographically from all over Iran, to participate in the nomination process. The NGO was involved in the preparation of the Iranian part of the nomination file and also worked with their Syrian partners on this nomination file. In Syria, the Ministry of Culture established a working group to follow up on the nomination process. Over a period of 11 months, the working group carried out meetings, field visits, and face-to-face interviews with bearers, academics, researchers and government and NGO representatives who contributed with various points of views. A separate Working Group was established by the Syrian Ministry of Culture and the IMCHTH in Iran represented the respective states to jointly prepare the multinational nomination. Each state gathered relevant information from its communities in preparation of the nomination file. Audio-visual material was collected in order to represent the communities of both countries. The final stages of the nomination process were closely followed by experts of the NGOs: the Syria Trust for Development and the Iran House of Music, and the Iran Museum of Music. Both submitting States provided letters of consent from NGOs, craftspersons, oud players, associations and institutions.

  1. Decides to inscribe Crafting and playing the Oud on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for the submission of an improved file following the decision of the Committee to refer the file in 2020;
  3. Encourages the States Parties, when submitting future nomination files, to provide more detailed explanations on the social functions and cultural meanings concerning the element.