Natacha Atlas – Mounqaliba (In a State of Reversal)

January 01, 1970

(Six
Degrees)

 

www.sixdegreerecords.com

 

Sung
mostly in classical Arabic, Mounqaliba
(In a State of Reversal)
is Natacha Atlas’s latest attempt to trace her musical lineage. The
Brussels-born, Magreb-rooted singer is serious about the undertaking, but not
literal-minded. Recorded in London,
Atlas’ principal musical base since her days in the ethno-rave Transglobal
Underground, the album mingles traditional Arabic song with Western jazz and
folk-rock. Sprinkled amid the tunes Atlas co-wrote (with Egyptian-bred Samy
Bishai and others) are versions of the traditional “Muwashah
Ozkourini” as well as Nick Drake’s “River Man” and Francoise
Hardy’s “A Nuit Est Sur la Ville.”

 

Bishai
programmed the album’s synthbeats, but such electronic touches are subtle. The
principal instruments are piano — sometimes played by British jazz musician
Zoe Rahman — violins, accordion and ney (a kind of flute). While drums patter
gently, such upbeat numbers as “Batkalim” and “Taalet”

are
fueled mostly by their robust backing vocals and swooping, Turko-Egyptian-style
strings.

 

“Upbeat”
is a relative term. Nothing on Mounqaliba could compete on the dance floor with Atlas’ thumping early material (both with
and without the Transglobals). The album’s mood is delicate and somewhat
melancholy, an outlook linked to samples of Egyptian street noise and distracting
spoken-word asides about economic globalization and such. (The remarks come
mostly from the Zeitgeist movement’s Jacques Fresco and Peter Joseph, although
Barack Obama also has a cameo.) These attempts to explain the state of things
seem out of place on an album that’s most worldly at its most intimate.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Muwashah
Ozkourini,” “Taalet” MARK
JENKINS

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