Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

251

Natacha Atlas: Mounqaliba

Chris M. Slawecki By

Sign in to view read count
Vocalist Natacha Atlas seems to embody the modern musical millennia: She was born in Brussels and raised in one of its Moroccan suburbs; her compositions and singing reach into and crisscross storied European and Arabic musical traditions. Primarily co-written and performed with multi-instrumentalist Samy Bishai along with pianist Zoe Rahman, a chamber orchestra and 20-piece Turkish ensemble, Mounqaliba is most likely the clearest representation of Atlas' ambitious vision so far. "What I hope I have achieved is to match the lyricism of classical music with the inherent poetry of Arabic," she says, "through the juxtaposition of western classical string sections with traditional Arabic instruments, classical Arabic poetry against abstract impressionism, traditional Arabic percussion with smoky jazz kits..."

The strings, percussion and other instrumentation—especially Rahman's unaccompanied and gorgeous "Bada Al Fajr" solo—prove quite complementary and evocative, but Atlas' voice dominates their colorful landscape with a sound that's simply magic and is both timeless and modern. Her voice curtsies to, then dances with, the twirling strings of the Arabic traditional "Muwashah Ozkourini," to call the instrumentation together beneath its wings, then swims in Arabic harmonic and melodic pools more than four centuries deep. Atlas directly juxtaposes this Arabic traditional against her hypnotic treatment of Nick Drake's somber elegy "Riverman."

"Riverman" flows into another pool of churning modern and ancient streams: "Batkallim," a swirling undertow of hip-hop and traditional Arabic rhythm that sputters and loops back into itself, rising and falling beneath her singing as she surfs its surface, then speared through by Rahman's thunderous piano and convulsing to full stop. Her piano introduction to the title track emerges as the ghost of these closing chords, a regal fluted melody ornamented by layers of strings and vocals that float down within the arrangement. "Mounqaliba" beautifully realizes Atlas' ambition of harmonizing the frameworks of Arabic and European classical music.

She also updates the wedding folksong "Taalet" with her "back for the future" aesthetic, and swirls the hip-hop beat and string arrangement into "La Nui test Sur La Ville" (from the repertoire of French chanteuse Francoise Hardy) like thick cream into dark black coffee. Atlas' steamy, moaning vocalese that closes "Sur La Ville" transcends the differences between European and Arabic languages because it uses no language at all, and accomplishes without words the ambitions of her music.

Authentic field recordings from Marrakesh, Cairo and elsewhere, along with snippets of psychological discussion of free will, also serve as mileposts on this remarkably programmed journey through Mounqaliba.

Track Listing: Intro; Makaan; Matrah Interlude; Bada Al Fajr; Muwashah Ozkourini; Riverman; Batkallim; Mounqaliba; Le Cor, Le Vent; Direct Solutions Interlude; Lahazat Nashwa; La Nui test Sur La Ville; Fresco's Interlude; Ghoroub; Evening Interlude; Taalet; Egypt Interlude; Nafourat El Anwar.

Personnel: Natacha Atlas: lead and background vocals; Louai Alhenawi: ney, background vocals; Joseph Aquilina: background vocals; Samy Bishai: beats, piano, programming, viola, violin, background vocals; Ian Burdge: cello; Paul Castle: background vocals; Mandy Drummond: viola; Eser Ebcin: accordion, qanoun, background vocals; Julian Ferraretto: violin; Vince Green: viola; Andy Hamill: chromatic harmonica, double bass; Ivan Hussey: cello; Pat Illingworth: drums; Danny Keane: cello; Kemper String Orchestra of Istanbul: strings; Oll Langford: viola; Martin Lissola: violin; Jennymay Logan: violin; Gillian Maguire: violin; Alcyona: piano; Aly El Minyawi: percussion, background vocals; Jocelyn Pook: viola; Zoe Rahman: piano; Emma Smith: violin.

Title: Mounqaliba | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Six Degrees Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Lavaman CD/LP/Track Review Lavaman
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32 CD/LP/Track Review Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32
by Don Phipps
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Imagination" CD/LP/Track Review Imagination
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Wish You Were Here" CD/LP/Track Review Wish You Were Here
by Jim Olin
Published: April 3, 2017
Read "Heartscape" CD/LP/Track Review Heartscape
by Marithe Van der Aa
Published: October 8, 2017
Read "Carry Fire" CD/LP/Track Review Carry Fire
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Eos" CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read "The Good Life" CD/LP/Track Review The Good Life
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 8, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!