Atlas in concert, 2008
20 March 1964 |
Schaerbeek, Brussels, Belgium
|Genres||World, Arabic pop, ethnic electronica|
|Labels||Nation (1989–1997), Mantra (1998–2006), Harmonia Mundi, Six Degrees|
|Associated acts||Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart, Transglobal Underground, Mandanga|
Natacha Atlas (Arabic: نتاشا أطلس; born 20 March 1964) is an Egyptian-Belgian singer known for her fusion of Arabic and Western music, particularly hip-hop. She once termed her music "cha'abi moderne" (modern popular music). Her music has been influenced by many styles including Maghrebain, hip hop, drum and bass and reggae.
Atlas began her career as part of the world fusion group Transglobal Underground. In 1995, she began to focus on her solo career with the release of Diaspora. She has since released seven solo albums and been a part of numerous collaborations. Her version of "Mon amie la rose" became a surprise success in France, reaching 16 on the French Singles Charts in 1999. Her most recent creation Myriad Road was released on 23 October 2015. It was produced by French Lebanese jazz musician Ibrahim Maalouf.
Atlas is of Egyptian and Israeli ancestry, as per an interview she gave to Ha'aretz in 2014. While she has variously claimed other origins (e.g.Palestinian, and Moroccan ancestry), they remain completely unsubstantiated.
Atlas has said: "My Grandfather was born in Egypt, and my father was born in Belgium, as he (her grandfather) moved to Europe when he was about 20. My mother is English, and my father was born in Belgium."
Atlas grew up speaking French and English, and later she learned Arabic and Spanish. She sings in several languages, including in modern colloquial Arabic, although she admits that she is not entirely at ease in it.
Early career and Transglobal Underground
Atlas returned to Belgium at age 24 and began her career with two jobs: belly dancing and the lead singer of a Belgian salsa band. In April 1989, she made her recording début as guest vocalist on Balearic beat-band ¡Loca!'s "Encantador" (Nation Records). In 1991, Atlas co-wrote/recorded the ¡Loca! single "Timbal" and co-wrote/guested with Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart composing five tracks for their Rising Above Bedlam album (Oval Records). Through recording with ¡Loca!, she met Nation-labelmates Transglobal Underground (TGU), a British ethnic electronica band with a Middle Eastern/South Asian focus. At the time, TGU had a top 40 hit, "Templehead", and Atlas became their lead singer / belly dancer.
Most of Atlas' earlier albums were produced by Tim Whelan and Hamilton Lee from Transglobal Underground. Diaspora (1995), Halim (1997) (in honour of Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez), Gedida (1998) and Ayeshteni (2001).
Atlas has always spoken her mind about the way both she and Transglobal Underground were seen by the UK press back in the late 90s/early 2000. "Someone from the New Musical Express 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 1999, Atlas 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 2003, Atlas provided vocals for the Kolo folk dance song "'Ajde Jano" on Nigel Kennedy and Kroke's album, East Meets East. In 2005, Atlas contributed the song "Just Like A Dream" (from Something Dangerous) to the charity album Voyces United for UNHCR.
Her music has been used in a number of soundtracks. Her song "Kidda" was featured on the Sex and the City 2 soundtrack and in the 2005 video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories on Radio del Mundo. In 2003, her voice is heard in Hulk in the song "Captured". Additionally, her song "Bathaddak" is one of the songs included in the 2007 Xbox 360 exclusive video game Project Gotham Racing 4. Her cover of I Put a Spell On You was used in the 2002 film Divine Intervention by Palestinian director Elia Suleiman.
Atlas was originally billed to star in and provide the soundtrack to the film Whatever Lola Wants, directed by Nabil Ayouch. However, shooting delays caused Atlas to only be involved in the film's soundtrack. Her song "Gafsa" (Halim, 1997) was used as the main soundtrack during the Korean film Bin-Jip (also known 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, Atlas collaborated with Belinda Carlisle for Belinda's seventh album Voila. She 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.
The 2007 film Brick Lane features four songs with vocals by Atlas, "Adam's Lullaby", "Running Through the Night", "Love Blossoms" and "Rite of Passage". On 23 May 2008 Atlas released a new album, Ana Hina, which was well received by critics.
On 20 September 2010 Atlas released Mounqaliba. Co-produced by Samy Bishai, it explored classical instrumentation, jazz and traditional Arabic styles and was inspired by the poems of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. She is also composing the music for Francoise Charpat's upcoming film.
Atlas has said in the past that she is "technically Muslim" and that she identifies with Sufism,. Atlas also said, "These days I prefer to say that I'm Anglo-Middle Eastern and leave the religion out of it." She is, however, open to other forms of spirituality because "it's important to be tolerant".
In 2001, she was appointed by Mary Robinson as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Conference Against Racism. Robinson chose Atlas because "she embodies the message that there is a strength in diversity. That our differences – be they ethnic, racial or religious – are a source of riches to be embraced rather than feared". She was a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Conference Against Racism.
Political views on Israel
In a joint interview with the Israeli singer Yasmin Levy, Atlas noted the risk of the collaboration because feelings of anti-Zionism across the Arab world were mostly tainted by anti-Semitism “Some Arabic artists wouldn't even consider working with anyone Jewish.” Of her experience of working with Levy, Atlas said:
“We spent a lot of time in this little room, just talking and drinking wine”, recalls Natacha, “and it was like I’d known her all my life. I’d missed that female Middle Eastern company, as most of the Middle Eastern people I know here are men.”
In March 2011, Atlas announced that she had joined the boycott of Israel and had withdrawn from a scheduled performance in Israel. She gave her reasoning as follows:
"I would have personally asked my Israeli fans face-to-face to fight this apartheid with peace in their hearts, but after much deliberation I now see that it would be more effective a statement to not go to Israel until this systemized apartheid is abolished once and for all."
- 2000: The Remix Collection
- 2005: The Best of Natacha Atlas
- 2013: Five Albums' (Her First 5 Albums In A Box Set) (Banquet)
- 2013: Habibi: Classics and Collaborations (2CD) (Nascente/Demon Music Group)
- 2005: Transglobal Underground
- 2009: The Pop Rose of Cairo
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- Tony Mitchell, ed. (2002). Swedenburg, Ted. 2001. Islamic Hip- Hop vs. Islamophobia: Aki Nawaz, Natacha Atlas, Akhenaton. In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell 57-86. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6502-0.
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- "Jean Michel Jarre* - C'est La Vie". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
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- "Sex And The City 2". WaterTower Music. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
- "Danny Elfman - Hulk (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Amazon.com Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
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- "Natacha Atlas: A Woman and Musician of the World". LAsThePlace.com. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
- "High Commissioner for Human Rights names Natacha Atlas Goodwill Ambassador for Conference against Racism". Press Release. UN. 1 June 2001. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Cartwright, Garth. "BBC Awards for World Music 2007: Middle East and North Africa: Natacha Atlas". BBC. Retrieved 29 July 2008.
- Hochman, Steve (3 August 2010). "Natacha Atlas Illuminates the Shifting Global Zeitgeist". Spinner.
- Jamie Renton (28 July 2008). "Sounds of unity". The National. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- "Ynetnews Culture - Natacha Atlas announces Israel boycott". Ynetnews.com. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
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