Review: Natacha Atlas Acoustic Ensemle – The “real” Madonna was in Copenhagen

Natacha Atlas: Cover of the album Something DangerousYesterday I attended the Natacha Atlas concert at the “Store VEGA” venue in Copenhagen.

I first heard of Natacha Atlas less than 2 months ago, and since then I’ve been sort of obsessing on her, but I hadn’t really heard any of her music except on Last.fm, that was until yesterday.

The concert had been moved from the smaller Lille VEGA due to high demand, and you can understand why.

The concert was part of the “Images of the Middle East” event, and you can’t really think of anyone better than Natacha Atlas to represent the fusion of cultures, she’s labelled herself, according to Wikipedia, as a “human version of the Gaza strip”, due to her multi-cultural background, and the conflicts that has created in her mind.

This time Natacha Atlas was bringing a predominantly acoustic ensemble, drums, cello, violin, guitar, flute and Fender Rhodes.

Natacha was concentrating on Arabic songs, most of them examples of fusion of the music styles of the west and the east, something she pioneered, but it’s been going on for centuries, just think of the south of Spain.

The mixture of West and The Middle East is a perfect fit, since the classic tradition of both music cultures really aren’t that different, but the use of more complex rhythms and especially the use of the voice as an instrument is something that is lacking in traditional western music.

Well Natacha you gave me the chills, it’s not often I’ve experienced this feeling at a concert, but what great musicians with your voice being the most beautiful sounding instrument of them all. Several times you had improvised duets with the musicians, and it was just beautiful.

It hard to pick any highlights from the concert, because it was all good, and several times I drifted into trance like state, but the several minutes long drum solo, where the audience joined in was indeed a highlight, the interpretation of “Black is the colour of my true love” was impressive, and the song that was played twice (one of the encores – I didn’t get the title), was a tribute to one of the most popular Arabic singers ever, Abdel Halim Hafez.

Store VEGA is a great venue, but I think that this performance would have been even better at a smaller venue, but the contact with the audience was nevertheless quite exceptional.

Final note: Natacha you’re everything Madonna would like to be. The “real” Madonna, or dare I say Isis graced Copenhagen yesterday, and I truly loved it. This was one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever attended.

4 Responses to “Review: Natacha Atlas Acoustic Ensemle – The “real” Madonna was in Copenhagen”

  1. Kim Bach . Org » Blog Archive » Review: DAM and Clotaire K in Stengade 30 Copenhagen. Merci les mecs! Says:

    […] Since attending the Natacha Atlas concert last week, I sort of got addicted to the Images of the Middle East festival, and they keep sending mails about interesting events, so I “went all in”, and bought tickets to 5 further events, and the music program is extremely wide and interesting. […]

  2. Kim Bach . Org » Blog Archive » Happy Fifth Blogaversary - i brought the noise! Says:

    […] I’m also very satisfied with the concert reviews I’ve published, especially these: Review: Woman power – Beyoncé gave the “Green Light” and other “coincidences” Review: Natacha Atlas Acoustic Ensemle – The “real” Madonna was in Copenhagen […]

  3. Invisible System Says:

    Dubulah from Transglobal Underground and one of Natasha’s producers / co-writers is a guest on this new album :

    I am Dan Harper, the man behind Dub Colossus (I recorded it in my studio
    in Addis,
    put all the
    musicians together, co-wrote/played on etc).

    I thought given my other
    recent
    Ethiopian release
    (to great press/reviews to date) this should be sent your way.

    I was recording this album (Invisible System, Punt (Made in Ethiopia)
    before Dub
    Colossus was
    born, all of DC are on it plus e.g. Mahmoud Ahmed (Ethiopques and
    Ethiopia’s main
    man), many other
    Ethiopians + guests from the UK upon my return include Justin Adams
    (Robert Plant)
    and Juldeh,
    Hilaire Chabby (Baba Maal), Captain Sensible, Simon Hinkler (The Mission),
    Zion
    Train, Baka
    Beyond, Ozric Tentacles etc etc. It is released after due to my heavy
    workload and
    as I set up my
    own record label to do this. I returned to the UK post 8 years aid work
    in Mali and
    Ethiopia with
    my Malian wife and daughter (Frome in Somerset).

    Some reviews are pasted below for you. If you receive this let me know
    and I can
    mail you a CD
    for review or some mp3s and jpegs. Although the press so far has been
    great, and
    the next FRoots
    has a full article on the album plus a free track on the cover CD, I need
    now to get
    it into some
    newspapers and non-world music mags. Mojo are currently looking at it I
    think. The
    reason being
    it crosses so many genres as you will see from below and thus will appeal
    to world,
    reggae, dub,
    dance, club, psy, rock etc fans as well.

    It has been played on e.g. BBC World Service, Late Junction, Asian net etc
    as well
    as in the USA,
    New Zealand Radio (with interview), etc etc.

    Ok, some reviews now.

    Best
    Dan – 07515 400362

    INVISIBLE SYSTEM Rock N Reel Review (just came through, not yet published)
    ****
    Punt ? Made In Ethiopia
    (HARPER DIABATE RECORDS) http://www.harperdiabate.com

    Having spent several years in Africa as an aid worker, musician and
    producer Dan
    Harper (aka
    Invisible System), was uniquely qualified when it came to the creation of
    this
    wonderfully strange
    and slightly otherworldly album. Punt is a remarkable musical melting pot
    that
    crosses continents,
    cultures and musical genres and in doing so gives birth to something that,
    with its
    blend of
    Ethiopian music, dub, trance, pop, electronica, rock and psychedelia
    refuses
    resolutely to be
    pigeon holed. Created with the assistance of an eclectic collection of
    musicians
    from bands as
    diverse as Ozric Tentacles, Robert Plant, Zion Train, Loop Guru, Baka
    Beyond, The
    Mission,
    Transglobal Underground and Baaba Maal, Punt is truly innovative. Recorded
    at
    Harper?s mobile Worm
    Hole Studio in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia it features some of that country?s
    finest
    including legendary
    singer Mahmoud Ahmed together with pianist Samuel Yirga Miyiku,
    saxophonist Feleke
    Hailu
    Woldemariam and singers Tsedenia Gebremarkos Woldesilassie and Sintayehu
    Zenebe who
    last year
    collaborated with Harper on Count Dubullah?s Dub Colossus project, A Town
    Called
    Addis. One of the
    most startlingly original musical adventures of the year Punt seamlessly
    knits
    together these
    diverse threads and in doing so gives a whole new meaning to the term
    ?fusion music?.
    Dave Haslam

    TJNelson
    World Music Network
    How an aid worker, who spent eight years in Mali and Ethiopia, became the
    nomadic record producer, composer, musician, sound engineer and all around
    champion for equality and democracy in the underbelly of the fat,
    bureaucracy-laden aid organizations in the third world is a mystery only
    Invisible System’s mastermind Dan Harper can answer. But it’s clear from
    his liner notes, Dan’s message is pretty clear, “Fascist dictators and
    insincere people beware…” Turning that frustration into music, Dan’s
    found an international stage for some remarkable Ethiopian artists and an
    electrifying amalgum of sound with his debut recording *Punt Made in
    Ethiopia*.

    Dipping into a stew of dub, dance, rock, trance and Ethiopian traditions,
    *
    Punt* plays host to a guest lineup that includes Ethiopiques’s Mamoud
    Ahmed
    and Bahta Gerehiwot, Hilaire Shabby, Justin Adams, Joie Hinton, Ed Wynne,
    Dubulah, Elmer Thudd and Gary Woodhouse among others. In addition to the
    recording, mastering, engineering and CD design, Mr. Harper also provides
    guitar, bass synthesizer, didgeridoo and percussion. Recorded in Addis
    Ababa and the U.K., Mr. Harper plunges headlong into a mystical world of
    trance, psychedelia, electronic dance music grounded by fiery Ethiopian
    vocals. The result is a bit like an exotic mythology flung into outer
    space.

    Relying on the artistic immediacy of improvisation, Mr. Harper opens
    *Punt* with
    an easy groove crafted by Ed Wynne on synthesizer, Juldeh Camara on ritti
    and some splendid vocals by Desta Fikra on the track “Hode Baba.” Turning
    toward the dreamy, “Fiten Azorkugn” sparkles with Joie Hinton on
    synthesizer, former Loop Guru member Elmer Thudd on drums and Tsedenia
    Gebremarkos’s vocals and Feleke Hailu Woldeilassie and Johnny Akilu Badane
    on saxophone, while Mamoud Ahmed’s vocals drift eeriely from a darkly
    striking trance background on “Melkam Kehonelish.” “Sewbekagn” shimmers
    with Netsanet’s sultry vocals rising out of some deliciously twangy depth,
    while “Min Atefahu” is saturated with edgy guitar. Other notable tracks
    include the neatly packed “Yeteleye Fikir” with Gahta Gebre Hiwot’s vocals
    or the spacy electronica against vocals by Mimi and Teremage Woretaw on
    “Gondar” and the combustible blend of dance and trance on “Dankira.”

    With *Punt Made in Ethiopia*, Mr. Harper has found a mixed sound that is
    both powerful and exotically edgy. While it may delve heavily into the
    trippy electronica on occassion,* Punt* lures the listener with an almost
    mythical world fusion sound while honoring the gracious spirit of the
    Ethiopian soul through its vocal traditions. What a treat.

    Jamie Renton – FRoots
    Invisible System?s album is a bit like a wayward relative of last year?s A
    Town
    Called Addis by
    Dub Colossus: perhaps its deranged brother, who?s been locked away in the
    attic for
    years,
    subsisting on a diet of hallucinogens and psych rock. Masterminded by
    English producer/
    multi-instrumentalist Dan Harper (who was also involved in A Town Called
    Addis), it
    features a
    combination of Ethio roots musicians and UK players from the furthest
    reaches of
    world and rock.
    This must be the first album to find space for both Mahmoud Ahmed and The
    Damned?s
    Captain
    Sensible. Justin, Juldeh, Dub Colossus main-man Dubulah, Martin Craddick
    from Baka
    Beyond and
    members of The Mission, Here & Now and Ozric Tentacles, all add
    embellishments to
    recordings of
    local musicians made by Harper in his Ethiopian studio.

    The result is highly unusual and at times quite intoxicating. It starts
    out warm,
    dubby, jazzy, a
    little like A Town Like? before moving into wilder territory, with
    elements of drum
    ?n? bass and
    techno, swathes of rock guitar, an unhinged sense that anything could
    happen. It
    doesn?t all work,
    but there are a lot more hits than misses and Melkam Kehonelish ? If That
    Is What
    You Want
    combines Mahmoud?s majestic vocals with rumbling electronica to delicious
    effect.
    Not to
    everyone?s taste I?d guess, but well worth a try. I find that it grows
    with each
    listen.

    Distributed by Discovery.

    Buy from Amazon.co.uk

    Jamie Renton

    Fly Global Magazine
    Any album that assembles an array of contributors as wide as Mahmoud Ahmed
    and Bahta
    Gebre Hiwot
    of Ethiopiques fame, Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, and European
    musicians like
    beats-smith
    Dubulah (a.k.a Nick Page) is likely to struggle to find a cohesive voice.
    Not so for
    PUNT Made in
    Ethiopia, the first release on Harper Diabate.

    The inspiration behind world-fusion collective Invisible System is a
    British
    producer, composer
    and sound engineer, Dan Harper, who spent 8 years in Ethiopia and Mali, as
    an aid
    worker and
    budding musical entrepreneur. The result of Harper?s travels is an array
    of
    collaborators and
    styles as long as your arm which are musically held together with
    Invisible System?s
    anger at the
    failure of large aid organisations to fulfil their raison d?etre in the
    third world
    (?Keep
    fighting for equality and democracy? writes Harper in the CD notes) and a
    trance-like blend of
    dub, psychedelia and rock.

    Mixed with these edgy sounds are North and East African vocals and a
    smattering of
    traditional
    instruments. As to be expected, the influence of the Ethiopiques series
    features
    strongly. Mahmoud
    Ahmed?s vibrato-drenched voice soars over threatening bass and synths on
    ?Melkam
    Kehonelish? while
    a cast of lesser-known Ethiopian vocal talent features during the album,
    though with
    varying
    degrees of success. Desta Fikra?s sensuous voice is an asset throughout
    but she and
    fellow
    vocalist Mimi fail to shine on the oddly stuttering ?Giba Wedebet?.

    It is not only Ethiopian musicians that set the tone of the album however.
    Juldeh
    Camara?s ritti
    swings alongside the reggae riff on opening track ?Hode Baba? while
    British
    singer/songwriter
    Captain Sensible adds an impenetrable layer of guitar noise to drum and
    bass finale
    ?Dankira?.

    Invisible System is pushing an important agenda in its political activism
    and
    although PUNT Made
    in Ethiopia is patchy and inspirationally stretched in places, there are
    moments of
    electrifying
    mystique and the beginnings of genuine cross-cultural conversations to be
    found
    here. Watch this
    space.

    Buy from the FlyShop

  4. Kim Says:

    Thank you for your comment! I’ll be checking your music out!

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