Natacha Atlas

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Natacha Atlas
Atlas in concert, 2008
Atlas in concert, 2008
Background information
Born (1964-03-20) 20 March 1964 (age 58)
Schaerbeek, Brussels, Belgium
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Years active1989–present

Natacha Atlas (Arabic: نتاشا أطلس; born 20 March 1964) is an Egyptian-Belgian[1][2][3] 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.[4]

Early life[edit]

Natacha Atlas was born in Brussels of Anglo Egyptian parentage. Her British mother was born Christian becoming Buddhist in the 1970s. Her father, of Egyptian descent, deeply interested in Sufi mysticism and the Gurdjieff philosophy of the fourth way, also studied Chinese medicine and Taoism.

Atlas was raised listening to music from both east and west and in the course of her upbringing learned to be tolerant of all religions.

After her parents separated, Atlas went to live in Northampton, England with her mother.[5]

Atlas grew up speaking French and English, and later 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.[6][7]

Early career and Transglobal Underground[edit]

Atlas returned to Belgium at age 24 and began her career with two jobs: belly dancing and being 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).[8] 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. Additionally in 1991, Atlas collaborated with Bauhaus/Love and Rockets/Tones on Tail guitarist and vocalist Daniel Ash on his debut solo album Coming Down. She contributed extensive vocal work as well as keyboards and bass guitar.

Solo career[edit]

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 2000s. "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."[9]

In 1999, Atlas collaborated with David Arnold on the song "One Brief Moment". The single featured a cover version of the theme song from the James Bond 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).

Also in 1999, she collaborated with Jean-Michel Jarre for the track "C'est La Vie" on his album Métamorphoses. The track was released as a single.[10]

In 2003, Atlas provided vocals for the Kolo folk dance song "'Ajde Jano" on Nigel Kennedy and Kroke's album, East Meets East.[11][12] 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[13] 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".[14] 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.[citation needed] 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 Carlisle'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,[15] which was well received by critics.[16][17]

In 2008, two of Atlas' songs, "Kidda" and "Ghanwa Bossanova", were used in Shamim Sarif's romantic comedy about two women, I Can't Think Straight.

In 2008, she sang lead in the song "Habibe" from Peter Gabriel's long-awaited album and project, Big Blue Ball.

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.

In May 2013, Natacha Atlas released Expressions: Live in Toulouse, an album which showcased her expressive voice using largely orchestral arrangements augmented by Middle Eastern percussion.[18][19]

Atlas has recently moved into the jazz genre with Myriad Road (2015) and Strange Days (2019).[20]

Personal life[edit]

In 1999, Atlas married Syrian kanun player Abdullah Chhadeh.[21] The couple divorced in 2005.[22]

As of 2009, Atlas was in a relationship with British Egyptian violinist Samy Bishai, who produced her 2010 release Mounqaliba.[23] The couple divide their time between London and France.

Atlas has said in the past that she is "technically Muslim" and that she identifies with Sufism. She also stated that her father has some Sephardic Jewish ancestry.[22] Atlas said more recently, "These days I prefer to say that I'm Anglo-Middle Eastern and leave the religion out of it."[23] She is, however, open to other forms of spirituality because "it's important to be tolerant".[24]

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.[25][26]

Atlas is a proponent of The Zeitgeist Movement. She included clips from Zeitgeist: Addendum in her 2010 album Mounqaliba.[27]

Political views on Israel[edit]

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 can spill over into anti-Semitism “Some Arabic artists wouldn't even consider working with anyone Jewish.”[28] 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.”[28]

In March 2011, Atlas announced that she had joined the boycott of Israel and had withdrawn from a scheduled performance in Israel.[29] 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."

By May 2014, when she gave a concert at the Méditerranée Festival in Ashdod,[30] Atlas had clearly changed her mind on the issue of boycott:

“For years,” Natacha Atlas told me, “I boycotted Israel and refused to perform here. But when I met a Palestinian fellow who’s married to an Israeli Jewish woman, something in me changed. Suddenly, this chance personal acquaintanceship made me think that maybe there should be another way. There’s nothing easier than to boycott and say that I don’t want to see Israel or meet Israelis or come here and perform. But then what? Where does that get you?”[6]


Compilation albums[edit]

  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Natacha Atlas adapts 'Egypt: Rise to Freedom'". Public Radio International. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  2. ^ "'Gedida' from Natacha Atlas". Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  3. ^ Curiel, Jonathan (2 November 2008). "Natacha Atlas' music mixes Arabic, English". SFGate. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  4. ^ "Coup de Coeur / Natacha Atlas : un nouvel album jazz produit par le trompettiste Ibrahim Maalouf. A découvrir en concert !". Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b Nussbaum, Debra (12 July 2014). "Natacha Atlas, not your typical Levantine - Features". Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  7. ^ Alison Stewart (21 December 2008). "Natacha Atlas: Acoustic Takes, Arabic Classics". Weekly Edition Sunday. NPR. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Various – Fuse – World Dance Music (Vinyl, LP)". Discogs. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  9. ^ Molly McAnailly Burke (30 June 2000). "Atlas: "I f***king hate techno."". Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
  10. ^ "Jean Michel Jarre* - C'est La Vie". Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  11. ^ Lusk, Jon (10 December 2003). "Review of Nigel Kennedy & The Kroke Band – East Meets East". BBC Review. BBC Music. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  12. ^ "East Meets East by Nigel Kennedy". Artists > Nigel Kennedy > Albums. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  13. ^ "Sex And The City 2". WaterTower Music. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  14. ^ "Danny Elfman - Hulk (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Music". Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  15. ^ Hutcheon, David (24 May 2008). "Natacha Atlas: Ana Hina". The Times. London. Retrieved 29 May 2008.
  16. ^ Rakha, Youssef. "Ana Hina – Natacha Atlas & The Mazeeka Ensemble (World Village)". The National. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2008.
  17. ^ Denselow, Robin. "CD: Natacha Atlas, Ana Hina". The Guardian. 23 May 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2008.
  18. ^ Robin Denselow. "Natacha Atlas: Expressions: Live in Toulouse – review | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  19. ^ "music | Natacha Atlas :: Official Website". Natacha Atlas. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  20. ^ Phillps, Anthony (30 April 2019). "Natacha Atlas brings Strange Days to Blackheath Halls". Weekender.
  21. ^ "Artists: Natacha Atlas". World Village. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  22. ^ a b Meadley, Phil (21 April 2006). "Natacha Atlas: Uncharted territory". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2008.
  23. ^ a b Michael Dwyer (10 March 2009). "Seeking a world in harmony". The Age. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  24. ^ "Natacha Atlas: A Woman and Musician of the World". Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  25. ^ "High Commissioner for Human Rights names Natacha Atlas Goodwill Ambassador for Conference against Racism". Press Release. UN. 1 June 2001. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  26. ^ Cartwright, Garth. "BBC Awards for World Music 2007: Middle East and North Africa: Natacha Atlas". BBC. Retrieved 29 July 2008.
  27. ^ Hochman, Steve (3 August 2010). "Natacha Atlas Illuminates the Shifting Global Zeitgeist". Spinner.
  28. ^ a b Jamie Renton (28 July 2008). "Sounds of unity". The National. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  29. ^ "Ynetnews Culture - Natacha Atlas announces Israel boycott". Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  30. ^ Méditerranée Festival

External links[edit]