Cairo is the Arabian centre of pop music. Natacha Atlas is a crossover artist who combines the sound of this city with western club sounds, a recipe that has made her extremely successful in Europe.
Natacha Atlas was born in 1964. She grew up in the Moroccan quarter of Brussels and moved to London as a teenager. She now alternates between London and her chosen home of Cairo.
Natacha Atlas is the best known oriental singer in the West and is regarded as the leading light of London´s ethno club scene.
The daughter of an Egyptian father and an English mother, she was born in 1964 in Belgium where she grew up in the Moroccan quarter of Brussels. As a young girl she had already learned the raqs sharki, or belly dance. While still in Belgium she performed in Turkish and Arabian clubs and gave a guest performance with the Belgian salsa band "Mandanga". As a result of her family background she grew up speaking French, English, Spanish and Arabic.
As a teenager Natacha Atlas moved to England. There she took her first steps in London´s club scene where musicians and producers noticed her at the beginning of the nineties. Dub producer Jah Wobble, who was working on his multicultural project "Invaders of the Heart" at the time, asked Natacha Atlas to join him for his album "Rising above Bedlam" as oriental background singer. At the same time she sang in the Balearic beat crew "!Loca!" and the song "Timbal" became a veritable club hit after release on a "Nation" compilation, the London multicultural experimental label.
The "Nation" connection brought Natacha Atlas together with the ethno-techno formation "Transglobal Underground" with whom she made her name as associate member and singer. While the two "Transglobal Underground" DJs, Tim Whelan and Hamid Mantu mastermined the music in the background, Natacha Atlas took care of the show on stage.
In 1995 her first album "Diaspora" was released. Although the album was developed together with her "Transglobal Underground" friends, its strongest elements came from near eastern rhythms and maghreb Gnawa music. With her second album Natacha Atlas linked up more closely with the traditions of Egyptian-Arabian pop music. She orientated herself strongly towards the work of singer Abdel Halim Hafiz, the 1930s "Nightingale of the Nile", who ranked among the top stars of the time alongside Farid El-Atrache and Umm Kalthum.
In her following albums Natacha Atlas moved more towards a uniquely individual style, deeply rooted in Arabian-oriental music, but still seeking a fusion with western club trends such as ambient, dub and other dancefloor beats. Her latest album "Ayeshteni", released in 2001, is inspired by Egyptian shaabi music. "It is a kind of Arabian protest music, more philosophical than political. Anything beyond this would have been banned. Shaabi also walks the sharp borderline between classical Arabian music, traditional music and other Mediterranean influences that entered Egypt about a hundred years ago. From this Shaabi developed as a kind of pop music that has been the most widespread form of music in Egypt for about twenty years" explains Natacha Atlas in an interview (in: www.jazzthetik.de/article/988668000.html).
The singer moved back to Cairo, the centre of Arabian pop music, for a lengthy period to work on her musical and language expression. Major sections of her latest album developed here. As a result Natacha Atlas has become one of the most exceptional mediums between musical worlds.
With her special mix she has achieved great success in France, and her connections in the music scene there have intensified over the years. Natacha Atlas has already worked in the studio with singer Rai-Sänger Cheb Mami and the group "Sawt El Atlas". With an eye on the French market her last two albums also included cover versions of French songs: on "Gedida" it is the Françoise Hardy classic "Mon Amie La Rose", and on "Ayeshteni" it is Jacques Brel´s "Ne me quitte pas".
Events at the HKW:
Friday, 20 April 2001
Africa? In and Out
Organiser: Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Natacha Atlas was born in 1964 in Brussels. As daughter of an Egyptian father and an English mother she grew up in the Moroccan quarter of the Belgian capital where she made her first appearances as a singer and dancer.
Still a teenager she moved to London where she came into contact with the city´s multi-ethnic club and producer scene. She made her first recordings with dub producer Jah Wobble as oriental background singer for his ethno album "Rising above Bedlam".
That was when the two DJs Tim Whelan and Hamid Mantu spotted her as a singer, and she joined them in their similar club project "Transglobal Underground". In this formation Natacha Atlas securely defined her profile which then opened the door to her first solo album in 1995, "Diaspora". This was followed by "Halim", a homage to Abdel Halim Hafiz, a legendary Egyptian singer of the 1930s, and "Gedida" in 1999 which links up with the sound of Cairo, the heart of Arabian pop music and Natacha Atlas´ newly chosen home. Her latest album "Ayestheni" is also kept in this key. However, her popularity in Europe, especially France, still exceeds that of the Near East.
The Best of Natacha Atlas
Foretold in the Language of Dreams
with the Marc Eagleton Project
Mantra/Labels/Virgin France 2000
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
Debates, lectures, concerts, readings
(26 March 98 - 24 January 99)