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Natacha Atlas



Natacha Atlas (Bruxelles, 20 mars 1964) est une chanteuse anglo-égypto-belge. Elle est d’origine proche-orientale au sens large, avec de la famille et des ancêtres venant notamment d’Égypte, de Palestine et du Maroc.

Classée dans les chanteuses « musique du monde » ou raï selon les médias, Natacha Atlas s’est fixé, fidèle à ses pairs égyptiens du Nubi-chaâbi et du Jeel (Musique égyptienne), pour mission de rapprocher l’Orient et l’Occident sur le plan musical, en saupoudrant d’Orient, la chanson française, la pop, le rap et d’autres styles…

Dans les pays francophones, elle reçoit un solide soutien de la diaspora maghrébine à la recherche d’une musique à son image et plus largement d’un public occidental amoureux de sa musique métissée.

Forte de ce public, elle recevra en France une victoire de la musique pour son interprétation novatrice et l’orchestration orientalisée de la chanson Mon amie la rose de Françoise Hardy.

Elle travaille avec le musicien, auteur-compositeur et arrangeur français et membre du jury de La Nouvelle Star André Manoukian


Natacha Atlas (it’s her real name) was born in Belgium, but is of Middle Eastern descent, with ancestral and family links to Egypt, Palestine and Morocco. Having moved around the world for most of her life, living in Brussels, Egypt, Greece and England, her experience of different cultures has most certainly influenced her music.

Natacha’s first break was when she sang on Balearic beat crew !Loca¡’s club hit Timbal, and was drawn into the Jah Wobble circle, singing and co-writing with his just-forming Invaders of the Heart. (She has recently worked with Wobble again, on the 2002 Wobble/Temple of Sound album Shout At The Devil). She also met Transglobal Underground, the London-based multicultural collective who, in blending electronica, dub, hip-hop and funk with Indian, African and Middle Eastern musical forms, were significant role models for today’s world-dance phenomenon. The encounter was to turn into a long-standing and happy association. First guesting with them in 1991, in 1993 she became a member of the core quartet of Transglobal, as lead singer and belly-dancer (the latter not some kind of limp tourist-pleasing wiggle but the real raq sharki). A couple of years later, it was the band’s Tim Whelan, Hamid ManTu and Nick Page (a.k.a. Count Dubulah, now of Temple of Sound) who helped her to make her first solo album, Diaspora. In parallel with the success of her solo albums she remained a full-time Transglobal member, and Transglobals constituted her backing band, until they left Nation in 1999, and they have remained allies throughout her subsequent career.

Diaspora was released (in the UK by Beggars Banquet/Mantra, as are all her albums) in 1995. It combined the dubby, beat-driven global dance approach of Transglobal with the more traditional work of Arabic musicians, and the result was a critically acclaimed collection of songs of love and yearning. 1997’s Halim followed, and then Gedida in 1999, both intelligently and naturally fusing Middle Eastern and European styles, and delighting an ever-increasing audience in both territories. 2000 saw the release of The Remix Collection, in which material from the first three albums was given the treatment by a variety of remixers, including Talvin Singh, Banco de Gaia, Youth, 16B, Klute, the Bullitnuts, TJ Rehmi, Spooky and the Transglobals. Natacha’s fourth album Ayeshteni was released in 2001. It bears, as its only English-language song, a particularly splendid example of how this woman can take on a classic and cast new light and excitement on it – a mighty rendering of Screamin’Jay Hawkins’I Put A Spell On You. 2002’s album, The Natacha Atlas & Marc Eagleton Project’s Foretold In The Language Of Dreams, was a considerable departure. No beats; a calm, shimmering album, involving a slightly smaller cast than usual, including Syrian qanun master Abdullah Chhadeh, whom Natacha married in 1999.

Apart from her own projects, Natacha is very much in demand as a guest singer for the recordings and performances of a remarkably wide range of musicians, including Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook, the Indigo Girls, FunDaMental, Ghostland, Abdel Ali Slimani, Toires, !Loca¡, Musafir, Sawt El Atlas, Franco Battiato, Juno Reactor, Dhol Foundation, Jah Wobble, Jaz Coleman, Apache Indian (on his chart hit Arranged Marriage), Mick Karn, Jean-Michel Jarre’s Millennium Night spectacular at the Pyramids, Jonathan Demme’s new film The Truth About Charlie, and David Arnold’s film scores including Stargate and Die Another Day.

And now, 2003 brings the new Natacha Atlas solo album – Something Dangerous.
With Something Dangerous Natacha Atlas zips Middle Eastern music straight to the heart of current UK pop, pulling in as she does so dance music, rap, drum’n’bass, R&B, Hindi pop, film music and French chanson. The success of her earlier work, both in the Middle East and in the West, including a top ten hit in France, has shown just how alluring a musical bridging of the divide can be; the exotic Arabic scales, rhythms and textures open up new horizons for 4/4-entrapped western pop and create possibilities for the enormous and varied Middle Eastern music scene to communicate outside itself. For a while, at least, there were signs of that happening in France when, alongside crossover success for raï singer Khaled and others, Natacha Atlas had a top ten hit with her Arabicised version of Mon Amie La Rose, and won Best Female Singer at the Victoire de la Musique Awards, France’s equivalent of the Brits. Of course, at present the divide needs bridging more than ever before. As ex-President of Ireland Mary Robinson, who in 2001 appointed Atlas Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Conference Against Racism, put it:
« She embodies the message that there is strength in diversity, that our differences – be they ethnic, racial or religious – are a source of riches to be embraced rather than feared. »

Something Dangerous not only combines more styles than ever, but for the first time on an Atlas album it features guest vocalists, and a great deal more singing in English than she’s done before. But it’s no abandonment of Arabic; she embraces and combines the two languages, as well as Hindi and French. The opening track, Adam’s Lullaby, comes as a surprise. A collaboration with English composer Jocelyn Pook (who, among other things, created the score for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut), it has Atlas’Arabic vocal lushly surrounded by Pook’s western classical orchestration for the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
But the sudden Jamaican patois of at the opening of Eye Of The Duck makes clear that this is to be an album of contrasts.

The West Indian tones of Princess Julianna and Transglobal Underground’s resident bard Tuup punctuate the sinuous Arabic lines of « Natacha rankin' » against a Middle eastern violin riff and ripples of Egyptian keyboardist Gamal Awad’s « Gem Oriental » organ. Julianna, whom Atlas met when they were both guesting with Temple of Sound, also duets on the title track Something Dangerous, her rappy and R&B breaks contrasting with Atlas’slinky Arabic improvising mawaal, and on Just Like A Dream. The latter features the gutty qanun (Arabic zither) of Syrian master musician Abdullah Chhadeh and the velvety, almost mariachi phrases of one of Egypt’s finest shaabi trumpet players, the late Sami El Babli, recently deceased in a car crash, to whom the track is dedicated. Both these tracks, like Eye Of The Duck and Layali, are the production and co-writing work of Jamiroquai/Underworld producer Mike Nielsen.

Atlas and Sinéad O’Connor, who last recorded together on John Reynolds’, Justin Adams’and Caroline Dale’s 2002 Ghostland album, trade aphorisms in Simple Heart, Sinéad taking the reflective hook line. It was co-written and produced by Reynolds, and the cheeky sample-chopped guitar pattern is provided by Adams – like Reynolds and Atlas an ex-Invader of the Heart – who himself is deeply committed to meetings between North African and Western music with his Wayward Sheikhs and his work with Lo’Jo and Robert Plant.

Janamaan, with its insistent bhangra riff, zippy techno and Bollywood film-song feel, with Hindi vocals from Atlas, Kalia and tabla-player Inder Goldfinger, is based on an unreleased co-composition from the years when Atlas was Transglobal’s singer.

The magnificent version of the James Brown/Betty Newcombe classic This is a Man’s World gains an ironic new slant from being sung by a woman; she administers its final contextual repositioning by breaking into a liberated mawaal towards the end. The arrangement’s epic style suggests it might have come from Atlas’work with James Bond film music composer David Arnold, but it was put together by Temple of Sound’s Count Dubulah and Neil Sparkes.

The Arabic pulse, strings and rattling percussion shot through with fizzing techno sweeps of When I Close My Eyes is the production and co-writing work of Brian Higgins, the man largely responsible for the Sugababes’Round Round and Cher’s Believe. So also is Who’s My Baby, in which The Cinematic Orchestra’s Niara Scarlett’s mainstream pop vocal keeps natural company with Atlas’keening Arabic. Jah Wobble’s characteristic deep bass underpins This Realm, co-written by Atlas, Wobble and Andy Gray; the latter also co-wrote and produced Daymalhum and Like The Last Drop.

Tranquillity pervades the album’s closing. Reminiscent of Foretold in the Language of Dreams is the sweepingly moody sunset feel of the album’s French-language track Le Printemps, co-written with trance producer Paul Castle. But as a last twist, the evening raga serenity that opens the final track, Like The Last Drop, is insidiously invaded by electro beats, which gradually transform it to an oppressive urban vision, with Atlas’vocals soaring free above.

For more information, please contact Lynne @ Mantra
020 88709912
[email protected]
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