Natacha Atlas

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Diaspora (1995) , 6/10
Halim , 6/10
Gedida , 7/10
Ayeshteni, 6/10
Foretold In The Language Of Dreams , 5/10
Mish Maoul (2006) , 6/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Natacha Atlas, the singer of Transglobal Underground launched her solo career in 1995. Her first solo album, Diaspora (Beggars Banquet, 1995), is basically another Transglobal Underground album, as it features the same personnel, but the format is far more conventional and the tone is far more Middle-eastern. Iskanderia, Yalla Chant and Dub Yalil nonetheless rank among their most powerful pieces. Atlas indulges in her chanteuse tone with Leysh Nat'arak and Diaspora, but the chamber arrangements of Feres and the hip-hop moves of Duden add spices to an already tasty meal.

In between Transglobal Underground albums, Natacha Atlas continued releasing solo albums, pursuing her program of racial/musical integration: traditional Arabic singing plus Egyptian pop music plus western dance music. Halim (Beggars Banquet, 1997), with the catchy rai of Amulet and Marifnaash, and Gedida (Beggars Banquet, 1999), with the single Mistaneek, the political rant of Bastet and One Brief Moment, and the stunning vocal display of Kifeya, are impeccable collections of tasteful arrangements and sublime vocals that highlight Atlas' truly cosmopolitan persona. Despite the wealth of ethnic instruments and the electronic touches lavished on the melodies, the main attraction is Atlas' own gypsy voice, alternatively guttural, melismatic, passionate and romantic.
Atlas composes electronic middle-eastern dance music (mixing scratching and drum-machines with oud, bouzouki, tablas, dulcimer and bendir).

The Remix Collection (Beggars Banquet, 2001) remixes tracks from the two albums.

Ayeshteni (Mantra, 2001) is a commercial work, that enhances both the poppy and the danceable aspects of Atlas' art, but tracks like the lush, driving Manbai are simply irresistible. Ditto for the mesmerizing Mish Fadilak and Shubra or the groovy Lelsama and Ashwa. On the softer side, the melancholy and more traditional Rah, the atmospheric Soleil D'Egypte, the hypnotic Ayeshteni and Lelsama weave layers of colors and emotions into the tapestry of her voice. (Two eccentric covers aim for the charts).
Atlas has perfected the original program of "transglobal dance", the concept of combining world-music with dance beats and has coined a new musical vocabulary, thanks mainly to traditional Middle-eastern vocals and instruments but also to a subtle interpretation of electronica (drum loops, hip-hop beats, orchestral touches). Her exotic, cryptic, evocative, sensual art bridges the gap between middle-eastern mosques and western discos, which, ideologically speaking, is short of a miracle.

Foretold In The Language Of Dreams (Mantra, 2002) is a collaboration with Marc Eagleton, who wrote the music. Atlas' vocals add little to the electro-exotic score.

Classy but largely predictable, Mish Maoul (2006) displays the usual parade of ethnic cliches, from bossa nova (Gnanwa Bossanova) to bubblegum pop (Bathaddak), from trip-hop (Oully) to gnawa (Hayati Inta), although it rarely attains the ambient austerity of her classic works (Wahashni) and rarely matches the infectiousness of her Middle Eastern hits (La Lil Khowf).

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