Tarek Reda, lead guitarist of Carl & The Reda Mafia, talks about his band’s biggest break opening for Bon Jovi last month in Abu Dhabi.
By Ahmed Mansour
Photos courtesy of Carl & The Reda Mafia
Hailing from four countries across three continents — India, Egypt, Nigeria and Greece — Carl & The Reda Mafia have proved that cultural diversity is no obstacle when it comes to music making. The four musicians (Carl Frenais, lead singer; Tarek Reda, lead guitar; Abimbola, drummer; and Chris, bass guitarist) all claim that while they were inspired by international musicians and bands such as Jonny Lang and the John Mayor Trio, they have their own style that shoots straight to the heart.
In an exclusive interview with Egypt Today, Tarek Reda tells the story of how he managed to go from a simple shred guitarist to the lead guitarist of a band that opened for Bon Jovi’s recent gig at du Arena in Abu Dhabi.
Tell us about your musical background.
All four of us have had our own share of bands and music prior to CnRMafia. Carl has played in some of the biggest venues in India, Chris also performed live in a lot of venues in Greece, I played in most venues around Egypt, and Abimbola had previous session recordings and live gigs. But for all four of us nothing is like Carl and The Reda Mafia; the music, the chemistry, the originality are something none of us have experienced before.
How would you describe your music?
Our sound is primarily called “funk jam,” which is a mixture of funk with elements of rock n’roll, blues and pop. Rock, rave, and pop fans will be able to relate to our music immensely. We’ve often been compared to Jonny Lang, the John Mayer Trio and the Dave Matthews
How did the band get together? And what made you choose this kind of music?
I met Carl, our vocalist, through a friend and Chris, our bassist, was in my band at the time. Bims, our drummer, was recruited by Carl; he found him through LinkedIn. Afterward, and as soon as we started jamming together, I knew that there was a connection between all of us and this is when I realized that we had to be a band.
But as for our music; it grew organically. Carl is very influenced by motown and soul, while I was influenced by funk and blues, Bims comes from a gospel and soul background and Chris brings in the funk rock sound. The final outcome was a hybrid sound that I think is fresh and groovy.
When and how did you start playing the guitar?
It all started with a very random coincidence. I was 15 years old, we had an acoustic guitar that my dad had bought many years ago, it was sitting in the house collecting dust until I decided to grab it one day and start playing. There was no inspiration to start playing the guitar but the moment I did I was immediately struck by it. It literally changed my life. It was meant to be.
How did you manage to break onto the global music scene?
Honestly, I wouldn’t yet call myself a global musician but I like the sound of it. I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time, to meet the guys. But for sure, as I always believe, luck is the meeting point of opportunity and preparation. I was ready when the opportunity presented itself. Hopefully, one day I’ll become a global musician playing for a global band, but that will require hard work — talent alone won’t do the trick.
What does it take to come this far?
You certainly have to work hard on your playing and skill, your connections in the scene, and self-marketing is a must. Try to put yourself in an environment that will inspire you. Meet other musicians and build your network. Build a name for yourself in the scene.
That’s the only way you’ll find other good musicians and potentially form your band. As a band, try to have a unique sound; there is so much clutter, you have to stand out. Don’t stop marketing your band.
You’re inspired by Johnny Lang and the John Mayor Trio and have even said you sound like them. What makes you feel you relate to them?
It’s the groove and their fresh sound. These bands play music that is funky, uplifting and soulful. That’s exactly what we sound like: music that is easy on the ears, but technically interesting. I describe it as catchy and easy but meaningful.
Who else inspires your music making?
The Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.
How many albums and singles have you released so far? And what projects are you working on right now?
We’re releasing our debut album “What The …” early 2016. The first single “Moo Point Of View” has been released on all major online music platforms including CD Baby and Spotify. We’ve also recently managed to get it on iTunes Midde East, which makes us the second indie band in the region to get their music on iTunes Middle East.
Where can listeners find your music?
To get to know our band better, just search for “Carl and Reda Mafia” on SoundCloud.com. I’d certainly recommend our two demo tracks “Lies” and “Tunes from Neptune;” one single, “Fight for Your Queen,” which we wrote for the “UN Women — He For She” initiative; and our first single “Moo Point of View,” from our debut album.
Are you signed with a specific recording agency?
Yes, we are signed with White Cube Studios. It’s a company based in Abu Dhabi. They generally do a fantastic job at supporting local musicians.
How many concerts have you played and which would you say was the most successful?
We’ve been together for only one year now but it’s been one hell of a year. It started with the prestigious “Jam battle of the bands,” which we won. We’ve also played at the Dubai Jazz Festival, Abu Dhabi Festival, Hard Rock Rising contest in Dubai, among many others around UAE.
By far, Bon Jovi has been the biggest most exciting gig we’ve ever done. We’re a year old as a band, so it’s just unbelievable to not only be opening for one of the best bands on the planet, but also to play on the biggest stage in the region.
What’s next for Carl and The Reda Mafia?
We have been so driven since the day we started off as a band. One year ago we didn’t exist, but now we’ve played at the biggest venue in the region. I don’t know what to expect a year from now, but I do hope we play at a venue of 20,000 plus as headliners.