KAMLOOPS --- Riversong Guitars have been sold worldwide since the company launched in 2012, but never has owner Mike Miltimore delved into the Middle Eastern market until now, partnering with oud maker Philip Shaheen.
"I know nothing about ouds," says Miltimore. "When Philip first asked me if I'd be interested in building oud [picks], I said 'what is an oud?' From that point a year ago to where we are now building ouds has been an amazing journey."
Shaheen has been in Kamloops the last two weeks working with Miltimore on finishing a prototype. The two met at a guitar conference in January.
"What attracted me was their picks. Guitar picks, their wooden picks," notes Shaheen. "It was fascinating, actually. Then I was thinking 'why shouldn't I have one pick for an oud."
That initial meeting lead to a quick friendship and conversation about a modern-looking oud that Miltimore could build — in partnership with Shaheen, who has his own musical inventions.
"We had a prototype ready to go for two weeks, but we really went full tilt," says Miltimore, anticipating Shaheen's visit. "My team really put in extra hours. We all believe in the project."
Shaheen is an avid oud player and has a cousin who's among the best in the world. He says the new, more modern oud doesn't take away from the traditional oud.
"What's unique about it is that when you plug it in, you still hear the timber of the classical oud, or traditional oud, which I did notice anywhere else," says Shaheen.
Miltimore notes the modern oud allows musicians to play it on stage while plugged in, instead of having to play it in front of a microphone.
"A lot of things that we fixed or have attempted to make better is to make it so you play oud, have the same sound as a traditional oud, up on stage and not have feedback, not have any issues like that," said Miltimore.
The plan is to break into Middle Eastern market in the next year. The oud will be revealed officially to the industry at January's NAMM conference — the same one where this idea all started.
"This is, of course, a brand new product. Our aim is to take over the world, one guitar at a time," says Miltimore. "But now it's one oud at a time. I really feel there's huge potential and a lot of parallels to the guitar world, so this combination of an oud builder and us is a patent for success."
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