I was born in Cairo in 1983 and had just turned two years old when my family immigrated to Australia. Although they were hungry for a new life, my parents loved Egypt, its history, music and culture, and held onto the cultural values of the place of our births.

Joseph Tawadros Joseph and James Tawadros performing with Benjamin Northey and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Photo © Daniela Testa

They both loved music. In Egypt my mother used to record radio shows of traditional Arabic music so she could learn the old repertoire. It was these cassettes that gave me an insight into this music and started my love of this old repertoire.

My parents were also Arabic movie buffs. I first saw the oud in a movie about the life of Sayed Darwish, one of Egypt’s most famous folk composers. When I spoke to my parents about this instrument, my mother showed me old photos of my grandfather playing the oud, which made me fall in love with it even more. I bugged my parents until eventually they bought me one.

From the start I had a thirst to learn traditional repertoire and about the country...