Husband and wife, Ghassan al-Yousef and Dina Abdel Hamid, are known as the married Arab couple who play on the same oud while performing.
On stage, Ghassan holds the pear-shaped body of the oud, while Dina grasps its Fretless neck. Their story is a unique real-life romance in the Arab world.
“Our love for Oud brought us together,” they told Al Arabiya English. It was in Cairo when the duo first met, to become students at the Arab Oud House founded by Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma.
They both took up the oud at an early age, inspired by famous Syrian singer Farid al-Atrash and Lebanese musician Marcel Khalifa.
Ghassan, who is originally from Syria, said his love for music began at the age of eight through listening to al-Atrash and Khalifa. He then felt “attracted to the oud and began to learn how to play on it.”
Dina, who is Egyptian, said she was inspired by al-Atrash to play oud.
“I was nine when I began playing on the piano, but I did not feel satisfied. But one day, I saw Farid al-Atrash on TV playing oud, and this is when I told my parents that was the instrument I wanted to play,” she told Al Arabiya English.
As passionate artists, Ghassan and Dina are constantly looking for ways to reach new audiences, and to inspire in others a love for music.
They blended their unique talents by starting to perform on stage together, each using his own oud, before they decided to try playing on a single instrument.
“When Ghassan suggested that we play on the same oud, I thought at first, it was a joke,” Dina said.
“It was difficult at the beginning but also fun. It took us six months to practice playing on the same oud. The audience hugely admired the idea when we first performed it. Now, almost at every show, the audience asks us to present a segment on same oud.”
The challenge, says Dina, is to maintain eye contact with your partner while playing, and to keep united in the spirit.
“We learnt to synchronize together. It requires you to divide your senses, so that you know what to perform with one hand, and what your partner will do with the other,” she said.
The oud duo have been married for 11 years and have been performing songs for the Arab world’s Golden era singers, such as Umm Kolthoum, Farid al-Atrash, Abdel Wahab along many more. They also play their own tracks, which are composed by Ghassan, such as “Laiyali al-Sham” and “Bait fe al-Hara.”
The couple also at teach courses at several institutes, in Cairo Opera House’s Arab Music Institute and the city of Damanhour in lower Egypt.
They say many students from all walks of life like to attend their classes, adding that they had a student as young as four years old, and another who’s almost 70.