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Natacha Atlas


Country of origin:

Belgium-born, roots in Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, and England

Type of music generally:

World pop

Status:

Most recent release, Myriad Road (2015)

See also:

Natacha Atlas's Official Site

Wikipedia's entry on Natacha Atlas

An Unofficial Natacha Atlas webpage

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for her collaboration with Marc Eagleton, Foretold in the Language of Dreams (2002)

Comparisons:

In spirit and energy a touch like Annabouboula and Shaï nO Shaï or the more pop side of Najma. (Neile)

General comments:

A friend of mine just came back from a trip to England and brought back a tape by her. I'm not sure of the title. It sounds like Islamic techno-dub. Kinda like the song on Brian Eno/David Byrne's My life in the Bush of Ghosts with the Islamic singer. Really good. These folks sure know how to ornament a melody. (cstack@ix.netcom.com)

Okay, I've been obsessed with Natacha Atlas for the last like three weeks. for those of y'all who know not, she's a bellydancer and singer from Egypt. she melds traditional Arabic music with modern Western electronic beats and bass and all that. anyhow, she used to/still does? sing with Transglobal Underground, if any of y'all know them. I believe they're all kinds of world music with beats aplenty...but anyhow, I'm learning Arabic, and so listening to Natacha Atlas I figured would be a good resource, since she sings in Arabic, duh, and so I bought Halim and took it home and was totally blown away...and so I ran out the next day and bought gedida, and Lord...it's some amazing junk too...the neatest thing about her music is that the electronica elements *ADD* to the Arabic music, rather than taking away, which says to me that it's what we'd call a successful merger of the two styles. Now if only we could successfully synchronize Western and Middle Eastern *politics*! We should all look to Natacha Atlas as a metaphor for how relations between here and there SHOULD be. Whatever. Bad joke. ;D Anyhow, she really rocks. Run, don't walk. (John.Drummond)

I have one of the Natacha Atlas CDs, and really, really like it. (Matt.Bittner)

Natacha Atlas' four solo albums to date (Diaspora, Halim, Gedida, and Ayeshteni) have each gotten less electronica and more traditionally Egyptian (though all four are produced by Transglobal Underground), and how one responds to any of it will depend on one's tolerance for Middle Eastern music; but I've listened to her albums more than almost anything else the last year or two. (For a reference point, her least traditional material sounds something like Ofra Haza.) (dgk@panix.com)

Comments about live performance:

We just saw her on Saturday in Miami Beach and she was fabulous. (8/10, gordodo@optonline.net)

Recordings include:


Halim

Release info:

1997—Koch—Koch CD 7981

Availability:

Wide in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of world pop

Group members:

Natacha Atlas—vocals

Guest artists:

Lazarus Whelan—keyboard, string arrangement on "Marifnaash", tenor sax, ney, clarinet, string transcription
Caroline Dale—cello, string arrangement on "Gafsa"
Tim Garsaayid—dharabuka, riqq, ney, duf, mizmar
John Reynolds—drums, bass, keyboards, moog bass, nishmale
Carol Isaacs—accordion
Justin Adams—all guitars
Nawazish Khan—violin Sawt El Atlas (Kamel & Mounir)—vocals, backing vocals
Count Dubulah—programming, bass, string arrangement, guitar
Hamid Mantu—drums, dulcima, jazzride, mouth explosion, programming
Alex Kasiek—keyboards, programming, saz, string arrangement, backing vocals
Wa'el Abubakr—violins & solo
Ahmed Mansour—violins
Simon Walker—viola, violin
Keith Clouston—oud
Suzanne Bramson—string transcription
Aboud Abdel Al—violins
Jaz Coleman—keyboards, music arrangements
Rony Barak—dharabuka, riqq, duf
Nick Walker—programming
Essam Rashad & his orchestra—music & arrangements

Produced by:

John Reynolds, Transglobal Underground, Jaz Coleman, Essam Rashad, Natacha Atlas, Alex Kasiek

Comments:

Dancey world pop that reminds me a lot of Annabouboula, except the basic flavour isn't Greek but Middle Eastern. A lovely rich voice backed with lively beats. Lots of fun! (Neile)

Gedida

Release info:

1998—Mantra Recordings Ltd.—MNTCD 1014

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Natacha Atlas—vocals, keyboards

Guest artists:

Keith Clouston—oud, bouzouki
Tim Garsaiddi—percussion
Hamid Mantu—drums, analogue keyboards, organ, keyboards
Tim Whelan—percussion, keyboards, guitar, chords, strings arrangement, organ
Larry Whelan—midi shawm, nay, strings arrangement, sax
Yehia El Mougi, Samir Rashad, Fouad Rohayem, Ahmed El Assabgi, Mohamed Samak, Mahmoud Osman—violins
Aymen El Hambouli, Mohamed Abdel Gawad—cellos
Yehia Abdallah—magrouna
Ahmed Beder—percussion
Ihab Mahboub—strings arrangement
Ali Slimani—backing vocals
Mohamed Baher—mozmar
Essam Rashaad—assistant strings arrangement
DJ Awe—dj scratches
David White—convuluted skelectrics, mutator
Lucy Wilkins, Howard Gott, Ruth Gottlieb, Sarah Willison—strings
Farouk Mohamed Hassan—accordion
Adam Blake—bass
Joe Cairo—rapper
Reda Beder—nay
Maged Sourour—kanoun
Mark Goodchild—double bass David Arnold—strings arrangement, keyboards, percussion, guitar, programming
Nicholas Arnold—string conducting on "One Brief Moment"
John Bradbury, Roger Garland, Wilf Gibson, Mike McMenemy, Ben Cruft, Mike de Saulles, Pauline Lowbury, Peter Oxer, Keith Pascoe, Julian Leaper, Matthew Scrivener, Antonia Fuchs, Vaughan Armon, Quentin Crida, Rachel Allen—violins on "One Brief Moment"
Peter Lale, Don McVay, Rachel Bolt, Elizabeth Watson, Ivo Van der Werff, Bruce White—violas on "One Brief Moment"

Produced by:

Transglobal Underground, David Arnold

Comments:

First got interested in this from the Ladyslipper catalog description, and ecto reviews confirmed it. The blend of Middle Eastern and (how does one say it?) electronic/technological/dance music is seamless. And she has a lovely voice. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I really like it. It's a nice combination of what we westerners are used to hearing as far as percussions, arrangements, etc., with a style that is still very much middle eastern—a fusion of western dance/pop sounds with the more traditional Egyptian singing style. (chip@acronet.net)


Ayeshteni

Release info:

2001—Mantra Recordings UK (17-19 Alma Road, London SW18 1AA, UK)—MNTECD 1024

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of world pop

Group members:

Natacha Atlas—vocals

Guest artists:

Medhat Abdel Samie—violin, rababa, additional string arrangement on "Shubra," violin solo on "Ashwa"
Hani Farahat—violin
Tamer Ghoneim—violin
Mahmoud Osman—viola
Emad Taha—cello
Taha Taha—cello
Khaled Rico—percussion, backing whisper on "Ashwa," backing vocals on "Ayeshteni"
Hamid ManTu—drums, keyboards, programming, ghosts on "Fakrenha"
Tim Whelan—organ, piano, guitar, programming
Larry Whelan—saxophone, clarinet, clouds on "Rah"
Mohamed Kly—nahrazan
Yehia Abdallah—magruna
Khaled Salah El Din Taha Abdalla—percussion
DJ Awe—scratches on "I Put a Spell On You"
Ibrahim Kawala—kawala
Ituch—qanun
Essam Rashad—oud
Heanafy Soliman—strings on "Ne Me Quitte Pas"
Mamdouh Gebari—oud
The Mohandiseen Male Voice Choir—backing vocals on 2 tracks
Mika Sabet—programming, spirits on "Fakrenha"
Fahd—programming

Produced by:

Transglobal Underground, Mika Sabet, Zebda, Fahd, Essam Rashad

Comments:

It's a wonderful mélange. (neal)

Less eclectically "worldbeat" (crosschecked by later picking up her very solid Gedida) and more authentically Egyptian (crosschecked by making the acquaintance of the magisterial icon Umm Kulthum) than her previous albums, Ayeshteni is dominated by modal scales and powerful rhythms (especially the one with the heavy accents on beats 2 and 7 of an eight-beat cycle), even on her fascinating covers of "I Put a Spell on You" and Jacques Brel's "Ne me quitte pas." I'm helplessly susceptible to this sort of music. (dgk@panix.com)


Something Dangerous

Release info:

2003—Mantra Recordings—MNTCD 1035

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Natacha Atlas—vocals

Guest artists:

Prague Symphony Orchestra—strings (1)
Jocelyn Pook—strings, viola (1)
Melanie Pappenheim—vocals (1)
Harvey Brough—psaltery and vocals (1)
Mike Nielsen—programming, acoustic guitar
Princess Julianna aka Mi Julee—vocals
Tuup—vocals
Gamal Awad—Gem keyboard, accordion
Essam Rashad—oud
Abdullah Chhadeh—qanun
Paul—keyboards
Brian Wright, Dinah Beamish, Jacqueline Norrie, Nell Catchpole—strings (3, 5)
Kalia—vocals (4)
Inder Goldfinger—vocals (4), tablas
Larry Whelan—Akai flute
Sami El Babli—trumpet
Temple of Sound (Count Dubulah and Neil Sparkes)—all instruments/programming/percussion (6)
Bernard O. Neil—double bass (6)
Z—vocals (7), spoken vocal (8)
Ibrahim Kawala—kawala
Sinéad O'Connor—vocals (8)
Justin Adams—guitar (8)
Niara Scarlett—vocals (10)
Myra Boyle—vocals (11)
Andrew Cronshaw—ba-wu, zither, fujara, ba'on, shawm
Jah Wobble—bass

Produced by:

Mike Nielsen, Trans Global Underground, Fila Brazilia, Temple of Sound, Andy Gray, Xenomania, Paul Castle

Comments:

Something Dangerous starts with the very pretty "Adam's Lullaby", which is sweet but not sappy, a rarity in modern lullabies. The album then moves into an urban landscape of...reggae and hip-hop. Skeptical? So was I, but on further reflection it seems a natural progression in Natacha's fusion of Western and Middle Eastern musical styles. The album mostly succeeds, but it does help to think of it as an experiment, more Natacha and friends than like her previous solo work. The lyrics aren't always that great, but that's okay; the grooves are infectious. This is an album to dance to. (JoAnn Whetsell)

And after her most Arab album, her latest, Something Dangerous, is her least: many of the tracks are close to American r&b and hip-hop, with a host of guest vocalists; at times Atlas becomes a backup singer on her own album. A disappointment. (dgk@panix.com)


Mish Maoul

Release info:

2006—Mantra Recordings—MNTCD 1038

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Natacha Atlas—vocals, keyboards

Guest artists:

Sofiane Saidi—vocal (1, 9), backing vocals (3)
Count Dubulah—bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards, strings, programming, guitar, drums, string arrangements, claps
Neil Sparkes—drums, shakers, keyboards, programming, zils, bells, tambourine, duf, riq, shell shaker, darabuka, bindir, congas, nut shaker, hi shaker, percussion, claps, thumb piano
Bernard O'Neill—cellos, contra basses, double bass, piano
Ali El Minyawi—darabuka, duffs, percussion, backing vocals
Louai Henawi—ney, kawala
Brother P—drums
Princess Julianna—vocal (2, 5)
Gamal El Kordi—accordion, keyboards, backing vocals, additional arrangements
Nizar Husayni—oud, spoken vocal on 6
Aytouch—qanun, solo ney, kanun
The Golden Sounds Studio Orchestra of Cario—strings
Yazid Fentazi—backing vocals, oud, gambri, bender, zournas, karkabou, programming
Hamid Benkouider—backing vocals, djouwak, tabel, claps
Tim Whelan—bass, keyboard, guitar, programming
Ibrahim Kawala—kawala
Abdullah Chhadeh—qanun
Hamid Mantu—drums
Mika Sabet—FX
Clolaire K—English rap
Hamid Benkouider—French rap
Youssef Nabil—dictaphone poet
Marc Eagleton—guitar

Produced by:

Temple of Sound (Neil Sparkes and Count Dubulah) 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9; Tim Whelan and Natacha Atlas (5, 9); Natacha Atlas, Hamid Benkouider, Phillip Bagenal (3); Natacha Atlas, Marc Eagleton (10)

Comments:

Natacha Atlas continues her blend of Middle Eastern and Western music on her new album, Mish Maoul, which translates into English as "unbelievable." She uses guest rappers, dance-hall beats, and adds new styles to the mix, specifically Brazilian and bossa nova. Yet the cd feels more rooted in the Middle East, in Egypt and even Morocco, than her previous album, Something Dangerous.
     It's an intriguing mix of styles, and much of the album is incredibly catchy. For those who found Something Dangerous too Western for their tastes, give Mish Maoul a chance. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Ana Hina

Release info:

2008—RedOz Music/World Village—450005

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Natacha Atlas

Guest artists:

Roy Dodds—drums (1–3, 6, 8, 10–12); percussion (3, 11, 12); cahon & hi hat (4, 9)
Aly el Minyawi—dharabuka (2, 4, 6, 8); riq (1, 3, 9–12); douf (10); backing vocals (1, 6, 10, 12)
Andy Hamill—bass (1–12)
Harvey Brough—piano (1–6, 9, 10); fender rhodes (6, 8); guitar (7, 11, 12); backing vocals (1, 2, 7); all arrangements
Clara Sanabras—baroque guitar (1–4, 8, 9, 11); oud (6, 10, 12); ukulele and lead vocals (7); backing vocals (1, 2, 6, 8, 10)
Gamal Al Kordy—accordion (1–4, 6, 8–10)
Dave Priseman—flugelhorn (1, 9); trumpet (9)
Julian Siegel—tenor saxophone (1, 9); clarinet (2, 4, 6); soprano saxophone (11)
Peter Hanson—violin (1–12)
Everton Nelson—violin (1–11)
Julian Ferraretto—violin (1,2, 10, 11)
Bruce White—viola (1–11)
Ian Burdge—cello (1–12)
Louai Alhenawi—ney (3, 6, 10, 12); cawala (11); backing vocals (1, 2, 6, 10, 12)
Antonio Gil Martinez—backing vocals (7)
Hills Road Cambridge Sixth Form College Chamber Choir—backing vocals (1)

Produced by:

Harvey Brough

Comments:

I'm always pleasantly surprised by this, Natacha Atlas' first acoustic album, when I listen to it. The songs (new, traditional, Egyptian, and Lebanese) vary in style, though more subtly so than on her recent albums. It's a lovely collection, emphasizing the beauty of Natacha's voice and the instrumentals equally. My favorites are the energetic "La Teetab Alayi" ("Don't blame me") and "Hayati Inta Reprise (Hayatak Ana)" "(You're my life and I am your life)." (JoAnn Whetsell)

Mounqaliba

Release info:

2010—Six Degrees Records—657036 1170 2 0

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Comments:

Such a strange album. The music is more austere than on previous albums (even Ana Hina which it is closest to)—darker and subtler. Almost all the electronics are gone, but there are new jazz influences. Her rendition of Nick Drake's "River Man" is gorgeous and has been rightly praised, but much of the album is very beautiful, with wonderful piano and strings. Repeated listenings have deepened my appreciation, and reading reviews has helped me to pay attention to the interplay of classical Arabic and Western traditions and instruments which seems to be an important theme.
     Much as I have grown to like the music, I still have trouble with the 5 spoken word interludes in which Peter Joseph (a "non-commercial film director and activist") and Jacque Fresco (a "self-educated industrial engineer and futurist") discuss social science topics like economics, the role of government, and free will. (Barack Obama is quoted, so there might be other speakers as well.) I'm not sure how the subject matter fits with the songs, though I get the sense that it's all supposed to be about globalization somehow. It is thought provoking, I suppose, but for me the interludes are distracting, pulling me out of the album and the music. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Natacha Atlas has recorded with Transglobal Underground.


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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