It is by playing a rainbow-coloured piano in Place d’Armes in the middle of Luxembourg, that the public (and a number of followers online) have come to know Riadh. His performance earned him first place in the ‘My Urban Piano’ competition in 2019. But Riadh’s experience playing pianos in the public sphere did not start there.
Growing up in Algiers to a Moroccan mother and French Algerian father, Riadh’s childhood was marinated in music. There was always a variety of music playing in the house. At 8 years old, he started formally and painstakingly learning the classics at the Conservatoire Central d’Algers. “The structure and rigidity of learning classical piano gives you the technical foundation to be playful, creative and improvise later on”. Which is what he did. At 17 years old, inspired by some of his jazz idols, Riadh taught himself jazz and found his passion. Today, he likes to create “mash ups”: Mozart with swing, Beethoven with jazz.
But it was the dark hours spent playing in piano bars late into the night during his Bachelor in Management studies and his internship in Paris that he really cut his teeth. “That is when you learn about transitions, flowing between styles, experimenting with melodies. And adapting to the audience. Sometimes they’re engrossed in conversation and don’t even notice you. Then with a change of tune, you capture their attention and they stop mid-sentence to listen.”
“Music is my therapy. It’s how I express what I cannot say. Even when I can’t play, I’m reading and listening to music. Or composing. It fulfils me. I practice whenever I can, sometimes late at night with my headset on. And every Saturday morning with my youngest daughter. Our home is filled with music. Something different plays in every room. It’s an integral part of our family life.”
And not just his immediate family. With cousins and in-laws sprinkled across the globe in Morocco, Algeria, Canada, France and the UK, Riadh has performed virtual concerts to bring the family together for musical interludes especially during the sanitary restrictions. He diligently posts to YouTube and LinkedIn every two weeks. “I get more pleasure from creating the posts than consuming them. They’ve become a bit of a legacy for my kids.”
“My family know I can’t resist a piano. They regularly have to stop mid-way across a hotel lobby because I’ve sat down to play the piano! In 2019 the My Urban Pianos were all over the city just begging to be played! I was very honoured to win the competition.”