African nights

Not too long ago, « Nuits d’Afrique » sent my a Facebook invitation to attend a concert of Natasha Atlas in Montreal. Natasha is a British-Egyptian singer with a tiny little drop of Jewish blood.
Having lived in Belgium, the United Kingdom and Turkey, she incorporates various styles in her songs – a bit of underground, rap, R&B but mainly arabic sounds. She is the kind of artist that can be found in the « World » section because her style is unclassifiable.
Since I won’t be able to attend her concerts, I found consolation by listening to « MistaNeek », a song from her third album. I closed me eyes and remembered about the good old days.

Natasha’s music reminds me of Iman, a good friend of my mother. Iman’s daughter and I went to the same kindergarden. Every time I hear songs influenced by rebab or oud , I think of our afternoon snacks or warm evenings in French restaurants. Laughter came from all sides because we were in a good company and the food was tasty. A lot of Natasha’s songs push me to a quest of these unseizable memories, these childhood memories buried under the sand of a tropical and colorful country.

Talking about colors, it is something that Natasha is never short of, whether it be for her videos or during her shows.

There will always be two identities living within me: Arabic and European. When I was very young, I tried to ignore the Arabic side, my father’s side, because I saw it as foreign. But something happened in my late teens. I was at a nightclub in Brussels and I heard Arabic music, and I knew then that there was something inside of me that I wanted to go back to. So I ended up going to the other extreme. But as you mature, you realize that you have both inside you. That’s how God made me. These days I dream in two languages, and not a day goes by when I don’t end up using Arabic.

Not very popular in England, she became a sensation in France in 1998 when she added arabic flavour to the song « Mon amie la rose », a French classic.

In 2005, she declared: « I want to make arabic music acceptable to europeans. » This mission didn’t prevent her from staying faithful to her Arabic roots. She also managed to avoid falling into the traps of mainstream music.
A good example of a compromise between a latino-european style and a tint of her Arabic influence can be found in the song « Ya Laure Hobouki » from Mounqalibà, her latest album.

Mounqaliba also contains other tracks that are more classical. For example, her remake of the song « River Man » doesn’t betray her North-African  root as much as her first music hits.

Whether we content ourselves with her older albums or we choose to adopt her new style one thing remains the same; the diva did not lose her voice.
I wish a lot pleasure to all those who will have the chance to see her shine on stage, in Montreal, New York or anywhere else.

I’m going to leave you with some music…

Mon amie la rose
Françoise Hardy’s version via Youtube
Natasha Atlas’ version via Youtube

Ne me quitte pas
Jacques Brel’s version via Youtube
Natasha Atlas’ version via Youtube

Sample of her latest album from the official Myspace page.

Front picture was found on Alter Musica