Ousso Lotfy is a name that everyone in the music scene has definitely heard, either as one of the best guitarists in the whole country or as the S.O.S Music Festival organizer. How did he start it all? How did he come into all that fame? Ousso bared his heart out to us and gave us this interview.

Ousso, everyone knows you by this name, can you please introduce yourself more to your fans out there? What’s your real name and origins?
Ousso: My name on the ID is Mohamed Lotfy but nobody calls me Mohamed at all, even my own family, and actually I was called “Ousso” before Mohamed and before I was born because my mom wanted to call me Osman but it didn’t happen…but I remained Ousso…I’m purely Egyptian, went to a French school (Jesuit) then commerce, the English section at Ain Shams University.

There’s something everyone is wondering about, Ousso, how and when did your musical career started?
Ousso: I started my musical career at the tender age of 18, I used to play in rock bands like Implosion (Cover Rock Band) and another anonymous band, a trio where I used to sing and play guitar (Beatles/Doors/oldies), then after the so-called satanic issue, I had no choice and no one to play with, so Mr Nasser Begato (Double Vision studio owner) hooked me up with Samira Saiid’s band, and from there I started to get into the Egyptian professional mainstream scene and started recording movies soundtracks/commercials/pop songs and playing live with pop singers, and parallel to that with other Rock/Jazz/Blues/Fusion bands.

Why did you choose to play guitar and how did you learn to play it?
Ousso: I’ve always been obsessed with music, specifically classical music when I was a child and I mean since I was 1 probably as my mom noticed and told me that I would stay quiet and listen to classical music for hours, and then I played keyboards at the age of 9, when I turned 12 I saw “Slash” from Guns N’ Roses and my obsession with guitar started, my mom got me an acoustic guitar and I used to spend like 12 hours a day, if not more, playing anything I could get my hands on, starting from Pink Panther to Slash solos, TV commercials, classical phrases played by any instrument, pop songs, blues licks, then I got some books and started teaching myself basic notation, theory and harmony, started composing and improvising until the age of 20 I started taking lessons with pianist “Rashad Fahim” for like 4 years, and he taught me jazz harmony/musical theory along with other books and instructional videos/tapes, and I would apply everything to guitar.

What bands did you join? And what bands did you form on your own?
Ousso: I’ve played with Implosion (heavy metal rock band in the 90’s), my anonymous trio band (drums, guitar, keys) and I used to sing Beatles/Doors/oldies songs, then Hassan Khalil jazz band in 98, Ahmed Rabie band, Yehia Ghannam band, Hossam Shaker band, then I formed “Nagham Masry” with Sherbini in 1999, and the “19th Band” in 2008, joined “Eftekasat” from 2002 to 2008, “Junk Male” from 2003 to 2008 , “Sweet N’ Sour” from 2003 to 2004, “Music Matbakh” from 2007 to 2008, along with lots of anonymous jazz/fusion bands in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Concerning Eftekasat, why did you leave the band despite its success?
Ousso: I quit Eftekasat because of personal and technical problems that got accumulated over 6 years, as well as personally feeling that I’m no longer enjoying the music nor the chemistry of the band, which killed me, and started to affect my mood on stage and my musical input with the band, although we’re still friends and on good terms but it happens.

Can you tell us more about Nagham Masry?
Ousso: Nagham Masry is MY obsession and love! I’ve worked hard to present a different sound of precious Egyptian lyrics that have a deep meaning, that’s so Egyptian yet different and decent. I’ve done lots of experiments with this band, like playing an electric overdriven solo in Beit el Harrawy back in 2000 to a crowd that came to listen to Egyptian poetry right after the satanic lie of the media and the government, I wanted the normal listener to get used to Rock riffs/Jazz harmony/Funk grooves along with very Egyptian poetry and I wanted them as well to get used to accepting a long-haired rock guitarist who was still VERY EGYPTIAN! Nagham Masry is that precious project that won’t compromise and that’s why we don’t play that much anymore. That’s also why it’s taking so long to launch an album although we have more than 25 original songs ready.

Have you ever considered performing as “A solo artist”?
Ousso: Of course I thought about it and actually I’ve done it several times on different occasions.

The great S.O.S Music Festival that you started, why did you start it, and why did it end?
Ousso: I initially started S.O.S to push originality, to encourage the Egyptian bands to compose their music and have confidence in their abilities, to explore themselves regardless of their respective style or language. I wanted to give all the bands the chance to play before thousands that came to support them and only them! On a huge stage with a PA system built especially for them, not for some pop star when they’re just an opening band. I wanted them to experience that feeling that usually takes years to achieve, I wanted young bands to be encouraged and give them a push to work and develop knowing that there’s a place where they can actually present their music and gain thousands of fans in less than an hour, and get media exposure throughTV and radio, I wanted music fans with different tastes and background to stand next to each other and respect different opinions and tastes in a civilized atmosphere where a family could enjoy an outdoor garden and sit on the grass safely, I wanted to correct that social look that music concerts and musicians are a bunch of losers, and more.

Will the S.O.S Music Festival return?
Ousso: S.O.S is not over, the last one was 3 weeks ago, and right now the main sponsor is out because he has a different target. He’s under the impression that S.O.S is targeting ONLY ONE CLASS! Which really just goes to prove that he doesn’t know what S.O.S is talking about in the first place! But anyway, I’m in the process of presenting it to other sponsors and Insha ‘Allah things will be back to normal.

What music genre have you always wanted to play?
Ousso: I’ve never had a specific music genre that I wanted to play, it depends on the mood and I like all kinds of music and like to play them my way, even House music, I did work on several house tracks introducing funk guitar lines and solos, so to me it’s all music.

This is something I am very curios to know; since you are a guitar idol to everyone, who is yours?
Ousso: I love Slash! but I like lots of others as well, though not as much as Slash because I grew up listening to him and I love his way of soloing that’s very emotional and free of patterns/complicated techniques and all those things. He just plays, but of course I’m a big fan of Pat Metheny, Greg Howe and George Benson.

Who is the guitarist that you want to perform with, both abroad and locally?
Ousso: From Abroad, again I would love to perform with Slash, my idol. From Egypt, I actually do play with most of the guitarists and we’re friends, always jamming and performing together, and I mean those who are into music and want to have fun, not those who want to bet ‘who is faster? Who is more complicated?’ And I’ve seen a lot who fight through music. I really hate that kind of people, they turn me off, and I always avoid them.

How do you see the music scene in Egypt in general and the rock scene in particular?
Ousso: The music scene in Egypt is actually growing and developing, albeit very slowly, and I’m afraid that a lot of musicians are being very lazy not taking music seriously and not practicing enough to develop their skills. I’m sorry to say it but there’s a lot of drug abuse involved and many musicians are taking it as a fad and I don’t understand this attitude of ‘I’m the best! I know it all!’ I personally think that I’m very overrated in Egypt! I still have a loooot to learn! And this “the best guitarist in Egypt” that I always hear is actually “WRONG!”, there’s no such thing as the best, in music everyone has a style and a personality, and I’m afraid that a lot of musicians are falling in that trap of ‘You’re the best’, we all have to practice and learn.

About the rock scene, well honestly I’m not following it that much because I always feel weird when I attend rock concerts in Egypt, although I’m a rocker! I feel that it’s full of exaggerated attitude that turns me off personally not to mention lots of aggression and out of tune guitars (not all but a lot), but there are lots of great bands like Wyvern, SimpleXity, Idle Mind and more.

What’s your dream about music in Egypt?
Ousso: My dream is to see lots of festivals, venues, concerts, live music clubs, music schools, great musicians and interesting musical projects.

After all of your great achievements and success, do you think you have reached all you wished for or are you still not satisfied?
Ousso: I honestly can’t say I have great achievements and success, I wish for a lot! And I’m definitely not satisfied at all, I have to focus on my music a lot more, but unfortunately I’m doing lots of things that are distracting my musical development like S.O.S and lots of other projects but I hope that very soon I’ll have to hand it over to someone trustworthy and under my supervision and try to get back to be a full time musician.

Any future plans on your mind?
Ousso: A lot, but I prefer action to talking, so we’ll see.

What do you think of Rock Era magazine?
Ousso: It’s a great magazine and I wish it good luck and more success.

What would you like to say to your fans out there?
Ousso: I would like to thank you for all the support and I want to say that I’m so sorry that my musical input is much less than before, but I promise I’ll be back with new projects that you would hopefully like and enjoy.

We really would like to thank you for this fruitful interview.
Ousso: Thank you.

Interviewed by: Yasser Mohamed