A few months back oud maker Najib Shaheen approached me with a beautiful Hanna Nahat oud deserving of restoration. He said "Johnny habibi, look how well preserved this Nahat oud is!". The only issue, there was no soundboard attached to the rest of the instrument. Haram! It seems that someone refaced it at some point, and that failed. By the time Najib received it, the second soundboard was already removed.
We have no idea what exactly the original soundboard looked like. On the label its a couple photos of Hanna Nahat with the year 1949.
The objective then was to complete this instrument for none other than the great Simon Shaheen. Simon liked the size and shape of the bowl, and the fact that it was a Nahat of course, which had its original marquetry on the bowl, neck and pegbox. I said to Najib, let me do something special for Simon on this one. Najib agreed after some convincing, and gave me the parameters to work with for Simon's needs. I already had two old original Nahat bone rosettes, we chose the one to use for this project. Najib supplied me with the two smaller rosettes, a floral design common in Nahat
and original Nahat tuning pegs which I had to perform some trickery on to work in a good way. I already had many of the mosaics I made on hand,
copied from previous Nahat ouds. So it was now a matter of some basic logistics/layout, pickguard, general scheme, extended fingerboard, which is imperative for Simon's virtuosic and progressive playing. Some might say that this is not an "original" feature of Nahat, and while there is truth to that, this is Simon we're speaking of here, so this instrument is good as is, especially after he graces us with it on stage.
In the end we were all very happy how the instrument turned out, sound, action, and of course aesthetics. I choose the best wood I have for the soundboard (a hard spruce I've gotten all my greatest sounds from). I'm grateful I was able to do this as Simon is a musical hero of mine, and hope this instrument will serve the mastro well for many years to come. ..