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Ana Hina - Natacha Atlas CD
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Singer Natacha Atlas is now recording in London rather than Cairo, but perversely this is her most traditionally Arabic album, at least in terms of its nostalgia. Working with musical director Harvey Brough, she's chosen a classicist acoustic approach, as opposed to her usual electronic reinventions of Middle Eastern and North African sounds.
Natacha's fluttering voice is very prominent in the mix, allowing the space to savour every detail of her ornamented phrasing. Around half of the songs have a 1940s or 50s aura, sensitively interpreted by an orchestra of serpentine strings, ney flute, oud, percussion and a horn section that includes Julian Siegel. The Egyptian star Gamal Al Kordy makes a notable contribution on accordion; an apt inclusion given his involvement in many of the original recordings of these songs.
It's not all Arabic traditionalism, though. The Atlas/Brough songwriting partnership has produced four originals and a pair of arrangements, which revisit ancient folk forms, both Western and Eastern. Two of the originals possess strange echoes of other songs, with the title track evoking both Jacques Brel and James Brown's It's A Man's World.
A reading of Black Is The Colour follows Nina Simone's formula; just voice, piano and strings, sung in English. There's also an eerie version of a Frida Kahlo poem, in its original Spanish, sung as a duo with baroque guitarist and oud player Clara Sanabras, who this time opts for a pinging ukulele. And then, Brough re-arranges Hayati Inta, taken from the last Atlas album, driving all night down the highway of doom.
El Asil, from the book of Egyptian singer Abdul Halim Hafez, is followed by a lush arrangement of a tune that's at least 500 years old, with an exquisite ney/accordion conversation as its introduction. Such diversity might sound excessive in print, but the experience of gliding down these wayward alleyways produces a seamless sensation of high creativity, tastefully programmed. Ana Hina is set to be one of the year's finest albums. --Martin Longley
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Top Customer Reviews
Natacha Atlas is not a profound or original singer, but her sound is not superficial. She combines styles fluently, drawing from a wide range of sources, and sings in different languages so each song is different. She herself labels her music 'cha'abi moderne' (i.e. modern popular music) and her career has encompassed belly dancing and singing in a salsa band. Her flexibility and adaptability has enabled her to collaborate with musicians as far apart as Belinda Carlisle and Nigel Kennedy, as well as contributing to several film soundtracks (see Wikipedia).
I find her music appealing and different. She combines her voice with a variety of musical sounds from electronic to oud, and in Ana Hina she draws mainly from songs sung previously by Arabic singers, but also includes songs derived from a Frida Kahlo poem and a Scottish folk song. Natacha is not afraid to voice political sentiments and believes in a global vision of humanity and her songs reflect that.
"Ana Hina" is, however, also very different from these recordings as Atlas and Ensemble re-record some of her old songs, showcase new ones and interpret traditionals and cover principally Lebanese and Egyptian famous songs. This diverse selection is embellished with varied instrumentation which is full of colour and texture while Atlas's voice is at her most emotive and, even in the saddest numbers, there is a greater warmth than on any previous Atlas recording.
Although the highlights are too many to name, from the opening Lebanese song "Ya Laure Habouki" (Oh, Laure my love to you), the standout for me is the only song in English, the traditional "Black is the Colour", variously claimed as Irish, Scottish and Appalachian, which shames a host of mawkish versions by "authentic" Celtic artists. It is a slowburner par excellence, full of dignity, restraint and pure emotion.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautiful and relaxing music. The best album of Natacha Atlas so far. Nice mix of different styles. Buy and Listen !Published 18 months ago by Don Bauermann
And I thought the last album was great!
This woman just gets better and better - ok, so I am bias as I have been a huge fan for years and years and years, but the quality here... Read more
The first time I heard this disc I was in New Zealand. The melody and singing intrigued me. I just had to have this disc. Read morePublished on 9 July 2009 by Norman G. Foster
A slight departure from previous, but still compelling. Another truly excellent piece of work from this highly underrated artist, in my opinion the finest of all vocalists. Read morePublished on 9 Mar. 2009 by Ms. Joanne M. Baldwin
I do not speak Arabic, Perhaps I should. Because I do think that in today's multicultural world one should make an effort to familiarize oneself with the cultural accomplishments... Read morePublished on 7 July 2008 by biltmans