Ubaida (fl. c. 830)

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Ubaida (fl. c. 830)

Arabian songstress and tunbur player who was considered the best instrumentalist of her time. Name variations: Ubayda; Obeidet. Flourished around 830.

Ubaida, a tunbur player and songstress during the golden age of classical Arabian culture, learned to play the tunbur (a skin-bellied stringed instrument) from Al-Zubaidi al-Tunburi who stayed in the family's house. She was considered an exceptional player; Ishaq al-Mausuli, then Islam's greatest musician and theorist, said: "In the art of tunbur playing, anyone who seeks to go beyond Ubaida makes mere noise." Masdud, the most celebrated tunbur player of that era, refused to enter a contest with her, fearing she might win. When her parents died, Ubaida became a public singer. Ali ibn al-Faraj al-Jajhi bought her, and she gave birth to his daughter. She also took a series of lovers who spent vast sums on her, leaving her a wealthy woman.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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