The oud, the qanun, the buzuq, the tabla … the rich musical tradition in the Middle East boasts a rich lexicon of musical instruments. Through the centuries, you could find these instruments sold in markets from Aleppo to Cairo, produced and sold as local products.
But music in the Middle East is not static, nor is its market for instruments. Synthesizers, electric guitars, and studio sounds flood today’s Arabic pop music, and even the great performers of the 20 th century sang to the accompaniment of Western instruments. The Rahbani brothers, for example, considered the piano a key element to the songs they composed for Fairuz. Even Umm Kulthum, the great defender of classical Arabic music, included cellos in her takht (Arabic for orchestra).
Of course, changes in popular music correspond to changes in the instrument market, and the Jordanian startup Feesheh is leading the charge. With a mission of seeing an instrument in every home, Feesheh has proven itself a notable startup in the Arab music scene.
Feesheh began with its cofounders, Nur Alfayez and Fahed Farraj. Musical lovers themselves, Alfayez and Farraj noticed how difficult it was to purchase Western instruments in the Middle East. Stores were few and far in between, and rarely competitively priced. Online stores – plentiful in the West – were not an option for most Arabs, with the lack of credit cards and easy shipping.
Feesheh was born to fill this gap. Literally meaning “plug” in Arabic, Feesheh styles itself as “the first online musical instrument store in Jordan and the Middle East.”
Notably, the online store accepts cash on delivery.
Headquartered in Amman, the online store distinguishes itself from Western companies with a selection of ouds (Iraqi and Egyptian) and other Middle Eastern instruments, alongside a wide range of Western instruments. Targeting both local musicians and curious Westerners, Feesheh’s Oriental selection is one of the few authentic selections available online.
This wide customer base has allowed Feesheh to attract financial backing from investors such as the Jordan-based Oasis500, as well as The Silicon Oasis Founders incubator in Dubai. Just this January, they visited Switzerland to participate in the Seedstars World competition. Now, the company is concentrating on an expansion to Dubai, where it hopes to move its headquarters in the upcoming years.
While attracting investor interest abroad, Feesheh works to stimulate music interest at home.
The company consistently hosts amateur jam sessions, covering every genre from traditional Arab folk to “Oriental metal shredding.”
Preaching the accessibility of music, co-founder Alfayez proclaims his wish for an instrument in every Arab household.
We will see if Feesheh’s ambition can hook onto reality. In a musical tradition that values handcrafted instruments from neighboring stores, an oud bought online might be a tough sell. Even with Feesheh’s lowest-price guarantee and its selection of used products, quality instruments may remain financially out of reach for most Arab families. Then again, never underestimate the power of jam sessions. Maybe the Middle East is due for a music revolution?
Check out this adorable picture of one of the open mic participants singing the theme song to Pocahontas: