Back to the Future with Natacha Atlas

NATACHA ATLAS & the Mazeeka Ensemble
Ana Hina
World Village 450005

This album evokes a 1940s movies set in Middle East in which dodgy characters haunt the smoky shadows of a dark souq. Picture Natacha Atlas as the singer whose voice slices through the blue cigarette pall. Her material is culled from film scores, traditional sources, and the back catalogue of famed Lebanese singer Fairuz. Covering Fairuz is akin to a French chanteuse trying to do Edith Piaf and would be a vain attempt for most, but not for Atlas. Her undulating wails could wake the dead, and she has the range of an operatic soprano. Her supple and multi-colored voice also allows for bold experiments, such as a North African take on a “Black is the Color,” and a Frido Kahlo poem set to music that’s one part Mexico and two parts Morocco. All is backed by a gloriously retro orchestra.

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