As befits her globetrotting lifestyle and influences, Middle Eastern singer NATACHA ATLAS continues to create a body of work that refuses to be neatly categorized. Over the past decade, she has entrancingly fused North African and Arabic music with western electronic beats to produce a unique dance music hybrid. This sound has constantly been fed by fresh musical passions and testing in new sonic settings. With her latest album MISH MAOUL, her career comes full circle to touch base with her roots. The new album harks back in its sound and traditions to the music she grew up hearing in the Moroccan suburb of Brussels, particularly when the Golden Sound Studio Orchestra of Cairo makes its entrance. It also reunites her again with the Temple of Sound’s Nick Page aka Count Dubulah, with whom she first worked in Transglobal Underground and who helped produce her very first solo album Diaspora (and many subsequent collaborations).

Natacha Atlas (it’s her real name) was born in Belgium, of Middle Eastern descent, with ancestral and familial links to Egypt, Palestine and Morocco. Having moved around the world for most of her life, living in Brussels, Egypt, Greece and England, her experience of different cultures has most certainly influenced her music.

Natacha’s first break came when she sang on Balearic beat crew !Loca¡’s club hit “Timbal”, and was drawn into the Jah Wobble circle, singing and co-writing with his just-forming band Invaders of the Heart. (She has recently worked with Wobble again, on the 2002 Wobble/Temple of Sound album Shout At The Devil). She also met Transglobal Underground, the London-based multicultural collective who, in blending electronica, dub, hip-hop and funk with Indian, African and Middle Eastern musical forms, were significant role models for today’s world-dance phenomenon. The encounter was to turn into a long-standing, happy association. First guesting with them in 1991, two years later she became a member of the core quartet of Transglobal, as lead singer and belly-dancer (the latter not some kind of limp tourist-pleasing wiggle but the real raq sharki). A couple of years later, it was the band’s Tim Whelan, Hamid ManTu and Nick Page (a.k.a. Count Dubulah, now of Temple of Sound) who helped her to make her first solo album, Diaspora. Parallel with the success of her solo albums, she remained a full-time Transglobal member, and the Transglobals constituted as her backing band, until they left Nation in 1999, and they have remained allies throughout her subsequent career.

Diaspora was released in 1995 and combined the dubby, beat-driven global dance approach of Transglobal with the more traditional work of Arabic musicians, and the result was a critically acclaimed collection of songs of love and yearning. 1997’s Halim followed, and then Gedida in 1999, both intelligently and naturally fusing Middle Eastern and European styles, and delighting an ever-increasing audience in both territories. 2000 saw the release of The Remix Collection, in which material from the first three albums was given the treatment by a variety of remixers, including Talvin Singh, Banco de Gaia, Youth, 16B, Klute, the Bullitnuts, TJ Rehmi, Spooky and the Transglobals. Natacha’s fourth album Ayeshteni was released in 2001. It bears, as its only English-language song, a particularly splendid example of how this singer can take on a classic and cast new light and excitement on it - a mighty rendering of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You”. 2002’s album, The Natacha Atlas & Marc Eagleton Project’s Foretold In The Language Of Dreams, was a considerable departure. No beats; a calm, shimmering album, involving a slightly smaller cast than usual, including Syrian qanun master Abdullah Chhadeh, whom Natacha married in 1999.

Apart from her own projects, Natacha remains very much in demand as a guest singer for the recordings and performances of a remarkably wide range of musicians, including Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook, the Indigo Girls, FunDaMental, Ghostland, Abdel Ali Slimani, Toires, !Loca¡, Musafir, Sawt El Atlas, Franco Battiato, Juno Reactor, Dhol Foundation, Jah Wobble, Jaz Coleman, Apache Indian (on his chart hit Arranged Marriage), Mick Karn, Jean-Michel Jarre’s Millennium Night spectacular at the Pyramids, Jonathan Demme’s new film The Truth About Charlie, and David Arnold’s film scores including Stargate and Die Another Day.

“She embodies the message that there is strength in diversity, that our differences - be they ethnic, racial or religious - are a source of riches to be embraced rather than feared.” - ex-President of Ireland Mary Robinson, who in 2001 appointed Atlas Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Conference Against Racism

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