The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

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Cairo 360 Artist Profile: The Riff Band

Cairo 360 Artist Profile: The Riff Band
    written by
    Samantha Brook

    The Riff Band is an eight-piece band consisting of five Egyptians and an
    international brass section. Originally named ’Riff‘, the band officially
    became The Riff Band in 2002, performing their first concert at the American
    University in Cairo’s Ewart Hall.

    The band’s repertoire is a fusion of 1940s and 1950s pop and jazz standards,
    which has won them a wide audience of all ages. The band performs covers,
    mainly from The Great American Songbook, as well a few oldies, Arabic songs and Latin hits.

    Their style is elegant, smooth and always entertaining, which explains why they’re
    hot commodities at packed concerts, large-scale events and even weddings. The Riff Band has often held tribute concerts for jazz greats such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter and George Gershwin. They even spice things up with costumes and theme-nights at venues such as the Cairo Jazz Club, to help patrons get in the mood for their big band tunes.

    The Riff Band stands out and appeals to their audience as they are very
    entertaining and have a lot of interaction with their fans. Vocalist and band
    leader Ahmed Harfoush told Cairo 360 that ‘It’s all about sharing positive
    energy between the band and the audience.’

    ‘The Egyptian audience is very
    receptive to jazz,’ Harfoush added, ‘Especially as Riff does it in a fun way
    and combines it with commercial music.’

    The band’s female vocalist Noha Fekry told Cairo 360 that the Riff Band
    is ‘a special band and it’s fun to be part of it.’

    ‘The audience is slowly growing in Egypt and also all over the world,’
    she added. ‘The Egyptian audience is particularly receptive to Arabic or
    Egyptian songs that they recognize.’

    The band performs two Arabic songs and
    have put Egyptian lyrics to the Frank Sinatra classic ‘Something Stupid’.

    ‘The minute
    they hear something they recognize they love it,’ she pointed out.

    The Riff Band participated in the 2011 Cairo Jazz Festival, which ended
    on Saturday, March 19. Bulgarian trumpet player and co-founder of the band,
    Dimitar ‘Mitko’ Dimitrov, told Cairo 360: ‘We need a jazz festival in Cairo.
    [El Sawy Culturewheel] is a great venue to play and for the bands to gather.
    It’s great to meet so many bands from abroad.’

    Fekry took on an additional role in this year’s jazz festival by interviewing
    Angelica Niescier, leader of the German Women Jazz Orchestra. Niescier is a
    good example for Egyptian women and Fekry told us that she wanted to show
    Egyptian women that Niescier is a real person that they can relate to and that
    what she’s achieved can be replicated by anyone with hard work.

    Fekry says that what stood out for her was that Niescier wasn’t
    differentiating between men and women; she was encouraging people to follow
    their hearts, their dreams and their passions and be where they want to be, and
    ultimately be themselves.

    Riff recorded one song in 2007 and they are planning to record an album
    in 2012. The album will celebrate Egyptian oldies with the band’s own jazz
    arrangements. For more information, keep up to date with The Riff Band on their
    Facebook page or visit their website.

    The Riff Band regularly perform at the Cairo Jazz Club and El Sawy Culturewheel, among other venues. Check our events page for updates on their latest concerts.