Wednesday, February 04, 2009
world of atlas
Natacha Atlas and the Mazeeka Ensemble @ The Union Chapel, 1st February
Natacha Atlas is mainly known for her work in the 1990s as singer with "world fusionists" Transglobal Underground. She's also collaborated with the likes of Jah Wobble and written and/or sung songs for various films, most recently Brick Lane. Her most recent album though, last year's Ana Hina, was a mainly acoustic affair and its songs come across well at an atmospheric venue like the Union Chapel.
The album is a combination of songs by Egyptian musicians of the fifties and sixties like Fairuz and Abdel Halim Hafez, some original compositions, and the odd western folk song of apparently indeterminate origins like "Black Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair", popularised in the sixties by Nina Simone, of which more below...
The Egyptian songs are delicately arranged for a group comprising Middle Eastern and Western instruments (ney, oud, tablah on the one hand, violin, viola, keyboard, melodica on the other). After "Black Is The Colour", there are a couple of other western songs: an acoustic version of "Mon Amie La Rose"--a song originally performed by Francoise Hardy--and "La Vida Callada", on which Altas duets with Clara Sanabras, who covers a number of bases as backing vocalist, oud/guitar/mandolin/ukelele player and the evening's opening support act.
With the audience confined to wooden church pews, there's never going to be dancing in the aisles at the Union Chapel, but there are a couple of livelier numbers towards the end, most notably "Hayati Inta" which begins with a funky keyboard riff that sounds to me very like Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground", and ends with a some trademark Atlas bellydancing, which, should you be so inclined, you can see for yourself on the
video-sharing website we love so much.
This was the highlight of the night for me though: