Following their successful opening night on Thursday 21 March, Ahram Online sat with the seven members of Ribab-Fusion for a quick listen of their ribab (one-stringed fiddle) and Amazigh (Berber of Morocco) music.
From Agadir, southwest Morocco and the tourist capital, seven young men became great friends and decided to bring to the world what they know best, music especially the one that reaches to their heritage Amazigh. Amazigh is the Moroccan Berber culture that includes music, traditions, and its own language.
"We fought a lot growing up," Foulane Bouhassine, one Ribab-Fusion member comments, while the rest laugh out loud.
The seven friends started jamming together back in 1997 and it was only in 2008 that they became the known-today Ribab-Fusion. "It was a dream of ours to present the music of our ancestors and twist it a bit," Bouhassine says. He highlights that the group puts ribab (one-stringed fiddle) into the spotlight since it resembles the instrument of their Amazigh culture.
Music of Ribab-Fusion was never a hobby or a result of amatuerish jamming session, "We all took music as our majors in school," Bouhassine notified.
"Foulane and I go back; we met at the Music Institute of Morocco in 1996," Gamal Boumadkar, another member recalls. The mates studied ribab, bass, violin, and guitar.
Ribab-Fusion mixes in the music they know in one large pot to "put ribab to its rightful place," as the group describes. According to the band members, Ribab Fusion is "about our Amazigh music blending in music from around the world," Bouhassine says.
"We include Amazigh of course, reggae, jazz, and blues," Ahmed Warsas, a Ribab-Fusion member tells Ahram Online.
Their fusion of music attracted many during their performance on the opening night of the Cairo Jazz Festival on Thursday 21 March night. Different age groups gathered around the main stage by the lakeside at Al-Azhar Park where Ribab-Fusion was playing. Some danced to its tunes, while others swung to their sounds.
Foulane Bouhassine with his ribab on stage at Al-Azhar Park during the Cairo Jazz Festival 2013
"We are so glad to be performing here in Egypt, Om El-Donia (Mother of All Nations)," Bouhassine Foulane commented. "It is a great opportunity to perform in Egypt, especially at such event where cultural exchange happens."
Commenting on the audience's reception, the entire group giggled and nodded as Bouhassine along with his music buddy Ardogan Wanis confirmed "It was remarkable."
"They were so cooperative and having loads of fun," Boumadkar says.
"It is not strange for Egyptians; they are enriched with great arts and cultures… they love and appreciate music," Bouhassine comments.
"We have even seen some coming in from the other stage where another concert was held," Waras remarks.
Music played by Ribab-Fusion were all originals from their latest album Fiesta, in addition to some new compositions from the group's upcoming album which "name is still to be decided."
Also, while performing, Ribab-Fusion seized the opportunity to honour one of the their native fellow artist, Haj Belaid. The group performed Tali Wein (To Where), a song that was originally recorded in Paris in 1990s. "Great musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab joined the recording session," Bouhassine declares.
"We presented a sample of the original piece but we added our version of it, providing some new rhythms in addition to some new singing styles," Waras clarifies.
Currently the group is back to Morocco where they will finish their upcoming album. Among their upcoming plans is a small tour around their home-country.
Ribab-Fusion on stage at Al-Azhar Park during the Cairo Jazz Festival 2013