The Riff Band: quality music for a decade

Fady Salah
5 Min Read
Ahmed Harfoush and Noha Fekry
Ahmed Harfoush and Noha Fekry
Ahmed Harfoush and Noha Fekry

This Friday the Riff Band celebrates their 10th anniversary with a gala evening at the MUST Opera House. Known for their impeccable song choices, their great musicianship and for keeping the tradition of jazz and crooner songs alive, the evening promises to include all that makes the Riff Band a pleasure to listen to.

They excel in playing wonderful renditions of classic jazz songs in fresh arrangements and in the last few years they have taken a few iconic Egyptian pop songs from the ‘40s and ‘50s and set them to jazzy tunes.

Over 10 years ago a group of musicians played jazz together in small venues around town. They called themselves Riff and the band was made up out of local and foreign musicians, who enjoyed playing a type of music they loved. At one of their gigs they met Ahmed Harfoush, singer and jazz aficionado, and invited him to join for a song.

One song led to another, and in 2002 they collectively decided to take the band a little more seriously. They started to rehearse, made a song list and changed their name to the Riff Band.

Their very first performance took place in the Ewart Hall at AUC and Harfoush, also the director of the band, remembers, “I asked a few friends to come and dance on one of our songs, and it was hilarious. We also performed a few Frank Sinatra songs and the audience loved it and this made me realise that there was a market for this genre.”

Over the years the members of the band have changed, and it has not always been easy to replace them. “We are very much like a family, we know each other’s spouses and there are many inside jokes. But we have been very lucky in finding great artists to join us over the years,” Harfoush said.

The current line up of the Riff Band includes trumpet player Mitko Dimitrov from Bulgaria. “Mitko has a beautiful tone which defines much of our sound,” Harfoush said. Egyptian bass player Samer George has been part of the rhythm section for several years now.

Ramy Atallah plays the piano and is, according to Harfoush, “a musician with great taste and impressive musicianship. Ramy will improvise during our performances and it is a joy to listen to him, everytime.”

“Our drummer is also our sound engineer and this is wonderful because he knows us so well. He is full of positive energy and has added a lot to the band since he has joined,” Harfoush said.

Harfoush was joined a few years ago by Noha Fekry on vocals, who had sung in choirs and had received some classical training. “We are similar in that way and in the choices we have made,” Harfoush said. “I decided in 2007 to give up my day job and become a full time musician and a few years ago Noha made the same choice.”

The band has not been lacking work and has recently gotten new management that might lead for exciting things in the future. “I would love to see us perform with a full orchestra, play festivals abroad and do an album of the Arabic songs that we perform,” Harfoush said.

The anniversary show promises many surprises, including backing vocalists, a string quartet and professional jazz dancers and will feature a mix of old time favourites and new songs;  an evening to put on your dancing shoes for.

Tickets are sold online and in several outlets that can be found on the bands social media pages.

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