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