@ Pizza On The Park
18 - 19 August 2006
A special summer season of world music in the heart of London)
Click an image to enlarge.
During a hectic and exhilarating trip to Israel, Natacha Atlas
described herself as “a human Gaza strip”. She was referring
to the complex combination of influences – both genetic and
environmental that have shaped her, both as an individual and as
Atlas was born in Belgium 20 March (year unknown), of Middle Eastern
descent. Her ancestral tree has branches that encompass Egypt, Palestine,
Morocco and England.
At age sixteen Atlas began juggling musical projects that would
see her travelling between England and Belgium. At age seventeen
she would travel to Greece and Turkey, where she worked in Arabian
and Turkish nightclubs as a singer and belly dancer.
Atlas’ first commercial opening happened after singing on
Balearic beat crew !Loca¡'s club hit “Timbal”.
Singing and co-writing with Jah Wobble and the newly formed Invaders
of the Heart would follow. Such collaborations brought dance chart
success as well as artistic acclaim in the form of a Mercury award
nomination for Jah Wobble’s “Rising Above Bedlam”(with
five tracks co written by Atlas).
From 1991 Atlas began appearing as a guest singer and belly dancer
with London-based Trans Global Underground. By 1993 she was a full
member of this multi-cultural collective. Major tours, festivals
and further critical acclaim would follow.
Despite a hectic schedule, Atlas still found space and time to
concentrate on solo material. “Diaspora” was released
in 1995 to critical acclaim. This album combined the dubby, beat-driven
global dance approach of Transglobal with traditional arrangements
from Arabic musicians. 1999 would see the release of “Gedida”,
which fused both Middle Eastern and European styles. Each subsequent
release would bring a wider, more appreciative audience, as well
as further critical acclaim from the music press. In May 2004 Atlas
received an EMMA award (Ethnic Multicultural Media Award) as the
Best World Music Act.
Atlas has a collaboration CV to be admired. To date she has worked
with artists such as Jocelyn Pook, Nitin Sawhney, Fun-Da Mental,
Apache Indian, Jaz Coleman, Jean Michel Jarre, Nigel Kennedy, Andrew
Cronshaw, Abdullah Chhadeh and Sarrah Brightman.
Atlas’ songs have appeared in films such as “Chronicle
of a disappearance”, “Stargate”, “Hulk”,
“Divine intervention”, “The truth about Charlie”,
“Phantom of the Louvre” and “La repentie”.
I proceeded to eagerly ‘snap away’ after cautiously
requesting permission to photograph Ms Atlas - from Ms Atlas herself
prior to her sound-check. She confidently agreed. However, I noticed
my presence seemed to make her nervous. She did not stop me, but
the odd glance from above her microphone was enough, so I stopped.
When I apologised after the sound-check she calmly, but firmly replied:
“You were on my left side, I always have a problem when
photographers are on my left side!”
Ms Atlas is an extremely attractive woman. I personally could not
see any difference between her left, or right side… I guess
it’s a woman thing. However, next time, as long the conditions
allow, I will definitely stick to her right side!
I suspect that if Natacha Atlas did not like you, she would have
no hesitation in letting you know promptly. I like her!
Natacha Atlas’ singing voice, music and presence is intriguing.
This was the first of her two-night residency, but her only acoustic
set. The following day was scheduled to be an up-tempo affair.
Singing in Arabic, she seemed to cast a spell over her audience.
Normally you would hear a whisper, or even a carefully worded conversation,
but not tonight - You could have heard a pin drop.
Though I only witnessed a minute part of her repertoire, I could
feel a rich legacy, and sense a world of music from deep within
this pint sized performer.
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd