Article By Aaron T. Rose
Eclectic quartet H4O took to the stage on Sunday night in Mohandessin’s Cairo Jazz Club to showcase their styling that mixes jazz with traditional Oriental music and everything in between.
Fronted by renowned Egyptian guitar idol Ousso Lotfy, H4O is the newly-formed incarnation of Lotfy, Hany El-Badry on wood flute, Samer George on bass, and Mostafa Abbas on drums. The group’s members groove together seamlessly, in no small part because they have been friends for more than a dozen years. H4O’s sound combines relaxed harmonies with melodies that challenge and engage. The group smooth style paired well with the swanky nightlife of the Jazz Club.
Lotfy’s musical journey that brought him to H4O has been long and diverse, something that comes through in the music. Born and raised in Cairo, Lotfy developed a passion for music at a young age. Though guitar wasn’t his first instrument, it took the foreground when he first heard the guitar solo in “Mr Brownstone” by legendary American rock and roll band Guns N’ Roses. Even as a child, Lotfy worked to achieve his musical goals.
“I worked hard. I practiced and paid my dues,” said Lotfy.
As Lotfy grew up, he helped carve out Cairo’s underground music scene in the 1990s with his heavy metal band, Implosion. Simultaneously, he played in another band covering classic rock standards for groups like The Doors and The Beatles.
With the 1996 collapse of Cairo’s underground scene, Lotfy changed directions. With encouragement of studio owner Nasser Fathy, Lotfy broadened his musical horizons and decided to play guitar as a career. Already familiar with styles including rock, jazz, and flamenco, Lotfy soon found as much commercial and critical success as he had found in the underground.
A founding member of well-known groups Nagham Masry and Eftekasat, Lotfy has worked hard to develop Egypt’s music scene and grow emerging artists. As creator of the SOS Music Festival, Lotfy has ushered in a new generation of underground music in Egypt. In addition, he has also lent his talents to the American University in Cairo where he was an instructor in music technology and taught guitar.
In 2012, Lotfy left Cairo to study music at the world-famous Berklee School of Music in Valencia, Spain.
“There was too much happening here. I couldn’t focus on growing my music,” said Lotfy.
After graduating from Berklee with his master’s degree, Lotfy was invited to stay on in a teaching role. Studying, jamming, and creating at Berklee with people from 25 different countries, Lotfy credits his new surrounding with adding new sounds to his music. But it’s undeniable; all of H4O’s music has roots in the band’s Egyptian heritage.
Lotfy will return to Spain early next month, but H4O is looking forward to beginning production on an album together sometime in December or January. The group has one more gig before Lotfy departs.
They’ll be performing on Tuesday, 5 November at the River Hall at Sakia.