My brother, the oud player Joseph Tawadros, and I grew up in a family that listened to a lot of music. When Joseph picked up the oud, it’s natural in the Arabic ensemble to pair a percussionist with an instrumentalist, so I think that’s how I came to the req, as a way to accompany him. I think I was 12 years old.
James Tawadros. Photo supplied
My technique is actually quite different from other Arabic percussionists because I didn’t receive any formal training. I developed my own style from trying to pick up and adapt and imitate things that I was exposed to. There’s really two traditional ways of playing the req. One is called the cabaret style, where the instrument is held in one hand and the other hand plays off the instrument. The other is the classic style where you hold it with both. The classic style is a lot quieter and subtle whereas the cabaret style is really designed for volume. I mix the two and apply different fingers and muting techniques.
A career in music started to become more of a reality when I was in high school...