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Natacha Atlas

By Srajan Ebaen
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Natacha Atlas "Ayeshteni"

Compact Disc Compact Disc: Mantra 1024 Compact Disc


Genre: Female Arabian vocals in techno-pop setting

  Transglobal Underground diva Natacha Atlas is no stranger to ethno-pop/techno/world-beat fusion. Her previous albums Halim and Gedida showcased a strong talent for balancing pop and dance club sensibilities with soaring Arabian and Maghrebi vocals, and Ayeshteni further cements her growing popularity that garnered a French Best Female Singer award. Dub grooves with foundation-rattling synth beats anchor Algerian Rai and Egyptian Shaabi influences and even include two covers, "Ne Me Quitte Pas" (Jacques Brel) and an outrageous rendition of "I Put a Spell on You" (Screamin' Jay Hawkins).

Pervading the entire album like strong musk-based perfume is a palpable erotic charge. It hangs glistening like pillow-talk sweat on those seductively gyrating, heated rhythms Westerners tend to categorize wholesale as Belly Dance patterns. Add syncopated massed strings, pounding drum grooves and Natacha's melismatic vocals that rise over this hip Kasbah gathering like an unearthly Fata Morgana, and the end result is 1001 Nights seduction in a jewel box, water pipes and heavy smoke cover optional.

To pick highlights from this aural banquet at Natacha's "misbehavior encouraged" Coyote Ugly bar seems nearly sacrilegious. Still, there's "Mish Fadilak" with its shivering electrical violin dancing on the edge of flageolet distortion and the breathy question-and-answer chorus fluttering around Natacha's vocal charms like intoxicated ghosts. There's "Shubra" with its shimmying saxophone imitating a snake charmer going airborne on a magic carpet rippling with sensual delight. There's the title track that morphs traditional qanun and oud fragments into sonic weapons a rapper might appropriate. There's "Soleil d'Egypte" sung in French that juxtaposes Paris lounge style against semi-symphonic, free-floating strings and bass-heavy synth & drums overlaid with Middle-Eastern hand percussion details. Or how about the thoroughly made-over Jacques Brel tune that whispers of satin, silk and danger?

Ayeshteni's towering appeal lies in the impeccable balance between the synthetic propulsion of techno, and the organic romanticism of Middle-Eastern dance music; the merger of traditional styles and super-contemporary beats. It turns wide-open musical gesture that beckons us to step straight into an upscale nightclub in Cairo that caters to sophisticated foreigners and plugged-in locals alike. Forget whatever your hang-ups about Egyptian music may be. Ayeshteni goes straight for the jugular with a love at first bite world beat that transcends language and cultural barriers by addressing the more primitive beast within that writhes on dance floors across the world in fluid moves and with great kinetic pleasure.












































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