HOW TALENTED BRITISH DUO THE AYOUB SISTERS ARE CHANGING CLASSICAL MUSIC IN A UNIQUE WAY
by ASJAD NAZIR
A REMARKABLE rise has seen The Ayoub Sisters go from sensational YouTube videos to getting signed to a major record label and performing at prestigious venues around the world, including the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Sarah and Laura Ayoub have also topped the Official Classical Artist Albums Chart with their debut music release, along with scoring nominations at the Classical BRIT awards.
Now facing the music industry as independent artists, the award-winning Scottish duo is becoming the face of a new generation bridging the gap between classical and contemporary music. With more music and live performances on the way, the unstoppable stars are ones to watch out for.
Eastern Eye caught up with master musicians Sarah and Laura Ayoub to talk about their meteoric rise, memorable moments and all things music.
What connected you to music?
Sarah: Our parents were keen listeners of classical music and enrolled us for keyboard lessons. We took to it instantly and so our mother upgraded the keyboard to piano. She encouraged the practice and before we knew it, we were playing other instruments and attending a specialist music school, as well as entering competitions and performing regularly in recitals.
What led you towards the instruments you play?
Laura: We started on the keyboard and then began violin lessons. Sarah fell in love with the lower register of the string family, so made the switch from violin to cello. I sang at school and taught myself guitar, while Sarah taught herself the trumpet. We were curious teenagers and were keen to try as many instruments as possible. Eventually, we settled on the violin, cello and piano.
What made you want to become a duo?
Sarah: We have always played together as children, as most brothers and sisters do. But it was only later on in our musical journey (around 2015), when we took an active step to play more regularly together as The Ayoub Sisters. It felt like an organic step, and we soon realised that we had a special chemistry that people enjoyed watching and listening to.
What has been your own most memorable musical moment?
Laura: Making our Royal Albert Hall debut in 2016 was a musical moment, which we will never forget. It was right at the beginning of our Ayoub Sisters journey and a concert that will stay in our memories forever.
How do you decide as a duo on what projects to do?
Sarah: We have very similar personalities and even more similar musical tastes, so 99.9 per cent of the time, we are on the same page with what projects are for us and which aren’t.
What made you both want to bridge the gap between classical and pop music?
Sarah: We were both classically trained, but loved listening and playing other genres of music. The music we play today is a melting pot of the different musical influences and cultures we experienced growing up. We are an Egyptian family living in Scotland, so the music playing in the house was always a great mix of artists and genres.
Laura: Music is without doubt the most common and universal language we have, so using our instruments to bring as many different styles and cultures together is a joy and something we love.
How would you describe your journey as a musical duo?
Laura: Our journey as a duo has taken many interesting twists and turns over the years. The music industry can be quite turbulent and we’ve definitely seen moments of that throughout our career, as well as some incredible highs. What we know for sure is that you need to stay positive, stick together and be resilient. Our love for music, and our determination for it to be heard has kept us going throughout the years.
Sarah: The unwavering support from our family and friends has also played a crucial role in our journey. Without a rock solid support system, it can be very difficult to find the strength to see past the obstacles that life throws at you. We are also incredibly fortunate to have each other, which keeps things light and interesting. Our journey has definitely brought us closer as sisters.
How did you both feel when your first album came out?
Sarah: The moment we held our debut album in our hands for the first time was something we will never forget. What felt like years of thinking, practising, writing and perfecting had finally manifested itself on to a physical CD and the world was about to hear it. We were proud of course of the achievement, but equally apprehensive about the reaction of its listeners.
Laura: The moment it came out was a surprisingly liberating feeling. The album reached number one in the Official Classical Charts, which completely exceeded our wildest dreams.
How much does live performance mean to you?
Laura: Live performances are one of the most enjoyable aspects of what we do. It is something that is hard to replicate in a CD or recording. The electricity we feel on stage and the energy radiating from the audience is a rather magical, almost a spiritual experience. No two performances are ever the same and no concert experience is repeatable. Each one is unique, which keeps the fun and excitement alive every time we take to the stage.
Is there a performance that has been the most special to you?
Sarah: Performing for the very first time as The Ayoub Sisters in the Cairo Opera House was a stand-out moment in our career. We performed our entire album alongside the Cairo Symphony Orchestra and were amazed when the tickets sold out a month before the concert. The reception of the Egyptian people was absolutely incredible, and it felt like such a homecoming for us to finally put on our own concert for them. People came from as far as Lebanon and the UAE to attend, which completely blew us away.
Which musicians would you love to collaborate with?
Laura: We have a long list of musicians, producers, orchestras and composers we would love to work with in some capacity. Some of them include Jacob Collier, Pentatonix, the Metropole Orkest and Jules Buckley.
Do you two have many creative differences and how do you get around them?
Sarah: Naturally, we sometimes have our differences of opinion, but this is usually resolved as the end goal is always the same.Fortunately, we have similar musical tastes and the differences we have actually end up complimenting each other.
Who is your music hero?
Laura: It’s difficult to single out just one musician and label them a hero, but if we had to single out one person, it would be violinist and music education advocator Nicola Benedetti. In terms of compassion, dedication to the art form as much as the responsibility of being a voice for music education all over the world, she is as fierce as they get. She is a gem of a person and we love her to bits.
What is the master plan going forward?
Laura: The plan is to carry on creating not only unique music, but also exciting videos. Growing our YouTube following has helped us reach people in all corners of the world and we hope to continue to do that as our style grows and develops.
What can we expect next from you?
Sarah: We are busy performing and exploring new countries and new audiences with our music. We are also excited to be releasing new music and videos, so stay tuned and watch this space.
Why do you love music?
Laura: Music is the universal language and to be able to communicate with so many people, no matter where they come from and without saying a word, is a magical force. We also believe that being exposed to music from a young age and having access to a musical instrument is a crucial part of one’s personal development. We want to continue shining a light and raising awareness of the true importance of having access to a musical education.
Sarah: Music teaches us so many essential life skills like how to work as a team, listening to different people at once, and having the confidence to perform in front of others. These skills not only help to shape us as well- rounded individuals, but nurture one’s personal development that is impossible to be nurtured through any other subject at school. Music touches so many people’s lives and countless studies support that you don’t have to become a professional musician to feel the benefits of being exposed to it.
Laura: Our goal moving forward is to try and spread this message as far as we can and help to give quality musical experiences to as many young children as possible, especially in places where music education is less readily available like the Middle East.
What inspires you as a duo?
Sarah: Other musicians inspire us, as well as other cultures and people who come from different walks of life. It is easy to be quite consumed with what you do and to potentially live in a musical bubble and so we are always looking for sources of inspiration and stimulation to not only broaden our musical horizons, but also our personal ones.