Natacha Atlas – 2006

This here, is another rare groove track. For a time, Natacha Atlas, a Belgium-born artist from mixed Arabic and British descent, was mining some sorta, at times, dreadful Euro-influenced Mid-Eastern Cha’abi music. Cha’abi music is known for its heavy, almost drill-beat kind of sound, imagine the sounds of an automatic rifle going off, and setting that sound to a groove. Its the music you normally here smoothed over in Europe or expat communities, but way grittier as you get closer to Morocco, Algeria, or Iraq where the sound originates from.

Mish Maoul (Unbelievable) album cover.

Natacha, was by the time of this recording, kind of a big deal in Europe among expats who dug her smoothed over Cha’abi sound which had hints of pop, R&B, hip-hop, and dance music sprinkled liberally. However, by the time of 2006’s Mish Maoul she was growing tired of the lack of success that pan-global sound she was mining didn’t provide. Rather than attempt to integrate another kind of watered down fad into this album, she decided to go back to her roots, way more than before, in a way that could both homage and challenge her core audience.

Today’s track of the day “Hayati Inta” which was co-produced by then Transglobal Underground member and electronic musician Count Dubulah, gives you a taste of this audacious sound. Its a true hybrid, you hear the electric saz and oud work of Cha’abi music coupled with Natacha’s new melismatic/maqam type of microtonal vocalization and all of that is blended with the dub bass and electronic drill beat rhythms of the Count. Its a brilliant sound that Natacha didn’t continue after this album but an important one showing new ways to update an older sonic tradition. The rest of the album is quite interesting as well, but this by far is its shining track.

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Listen to Hayati Inta at Grooveshark…

Watch Natacha belly dance and sing her way through Hayati Inta…

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and then finish it off with the heavenly, Arabic-bossanova sound of Bab el Janna…

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Listen to Bab el Janna at Grooveshark…

or, not quite yet, if you want to stick around and listen to her great cover of Nick Drake’s “River Man”.