Natacha Atlas
Natacha Atlas

(born March 20, 1964) is a singer born in Belgium. She is known for her fusion of Arabic and North African music. She once termed her music "cha'abi moderne" (i.e., an updated form of Morocco's pop music). It also includes many influences from styles like arabesque, drum 'n' bass, and reggae.

Early life

People tend to disagree about the origins of Natacha Atlas's parents. She has denied claims that her father is a Sephardic Jew; she concedes to being "maybe 10 percent or something." She says the claim her father is Jewish is "one of those things where someone had a grudge against me and wanted to hurt me. My grand-grand-grandfather was Jewish. But Jews have always been part of Arab society, so it’s not so unusual for someone to find out that they have Jewish blood. At the end of the day, we really are so connected".

David Bennun of Melody Maker, in an article on Nation Records's website about Transglobal Underground, reports that Natacha is "A Sephardic Jew on her father's side".

Her mother is said to be an English Muslim. Natacha herself is Muslim. Natacha referred to herself as a "human Gaza Strip" :" conflicts between my European and Arabic sides will continue — my genetic code almost inevitably made me a nomad" (1) Natacha grew up in a Moroccan neighbourhood of Brussels, where she was introduced to the art of raqs sharki (belly dance) and cha'abi (modern Moroccan pop music).

Natacha learned several languages : English, French, Spanish and Arabic and in the course of her career, and she uses all of them. After her parents separated she went to Northampton with her mother.

Later on, she had two jobs – belly dancing on the one hand, and being the lead singer of a Belgian salsa band. In 1991, she recorded the track "Timbal" with Balearic Beat (¡Loca!). She also worked together with Jah Wobble, composing five tracks for the LP Rising above Bedlam. Thanks to Nation Records, which recorded ¡Loca!, Natacha met labelmates Transglobal Underground, who at the time had a Top 40 hit, "Templehead."

Transglobal Underground

She became the lead singer and belly dancer of the very eclectic crew Transglobal Underground (TGU) who focuses on mixing Eastern and Western sounds as well as other styles. Count Dubulah of TGU says about former TGU head: “Nat is not an ordinary human being. She is a supremely talented weirdo. She’s a lovely person; she’s just got a few character traits that need kicking the shit out of. Like her temper. She came at me with a knife once.”

Solo Career

Now TGU has a new lead singer, it also focuses on African sounds rather than the East. Nevertheless, TGU continue producing tracks for Natacha Atlas. Most of all of Natacha's albums have been produced by TGU. Natacha always focused on and continues to focus on her Eastern roots, as the titles of her albums imply: "Diaspora" (1995), "Halim" (1997) (in honour of Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez), "Gedida" (1998) and "Ayeshteni" (2001).

In 1999, she collaborated with David Arnold on the song "One Brief Moment". The single featured a cover version of the James Bond theme song from the film You Only Live Twice; two years earlier Atlas had collaborated with Arnold on the album Shaken and Stirred, recording the song "From Russia with Love" for the eponymous film (originally performed by Matt Monro).

In an interview with French magazine "L'affiche", Natacha stated that she's very interested in her roots; and that's why she sings in Arabic, to find her identity and to reconnect with her roots. Nevertheless, she also likes modern music like salsa or reggae. ("Je m'interesse énormément à mes origines. C'est pour cela que je chante en arabe, pour trouver mon identité et me reconnecter avec mes racines. D'un autre côté, j'aime les musiques modernes: la Salsa, le Reggae...") (3) Her father is quite pleased about that, and – Natacha continues – he even claims that the Atlas Mountains gave their name to his family. ("(mon père) est fier de moi parce que je m'interesse à notre famille, d'où elle vient. Ce qui est mignon et marrant, c'est qu'il croit – ou du moins il rêve – que notre nom est lié à un ancien roi de Mauritanie. C'est celui qui d'une chaine de montagnes est c'est dejà ça!")

Due to French-language tracks – especially her adaptation of Françoise Hardy's "Mon amie la rose" – Natacha is now quite popular in France. In the U.K., on the other hand, she hasn't had her breakthrough yet. Natacha hopes that this will change with her new version of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You". She is not very happy about the way her music is perceived in the UK: "Someone from the NME rang us about a feature we're to do with them and said 'We don't want it to be about the multi-cultural angle'. In other words that fad is over. And I'm personally insulted... what other... angle is there for us? I get sick of it all."

In 2005, she contributed the song "Just Like A Dream" (from Something Dangerous) to the charity album Voyces United for UNHCR.

Natacha's song "Kidda" was featured in the 2005 video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories on Radio del Mundo.

She was originally billed to star in and provide for the soundtrack to the film Whatever Lola Wants, directed by Nabil Ayouch. Shooting delays mean that Natacha Atlas will only be involved in the film's soundtrack.

Her song "Gafsa" (Halim, 1997) was used as main soundtrack during the Korean film Bin-Jip (also know as 3-Iron) (2004) by Kim Ki-Duk.

She participated in the piece "Light of Life (Ibelin Reprise)" for the soundtrack of Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven"

In 2007, Natacha Atlas collaborated with Belinda Carlisle for Belinda's 7th album Voila. Natacha contributed additional vocals on songs "Ma Jeunesse Fout Le Camp," "La Vie En Rose," "Bonnie et Clyde" and "Des Ronds Dans L'Eau." Voila was released via Rykodisc in the U.K. on 5 February, 2007 and in the U.S. the following day.

Discography

  • Diaspora (1995)
  • Halim (1997)
  • Gedida (1999)
  • Ayeshteni(2001)
  • Foretold in the Language of Dreams (2002) - Natacha Atlas / Marc Eagleton Project
  • Something Dangerous (2003)
  • The Best of Natacha Atlas (2005)
  • DVD Natacha Atlas - TGU (2005) - All her videoclips, some live tracks and an interview
  • Mish Maoul (2006)

 

Natacha Atlas

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