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

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
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),
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.

Dan – 07515 400362

INVISIBLE SYSTEM Rock N Reel Review (just came through, not yet published)
Punt ? Made In Ethiopia

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
wonderfully strange
and slightly otherworldly album. Punt is a remarkable musical melting pot
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
resolutely to be
pigeon holed. Created with the assistance of an eclectic collection of
from bands as
diverse as Ozric Tentacles, Robert Plant, Zion Train, Loop Guru, Baka
Beyond, The
Transglobal Underground and Baaba Maal, Punt is truly innovative. Recorded
Harper?s mobile Worm
Hole Studio in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia it features some of that country?s
including legendary
singer Mahmoud Ahmed together with pianist Samuel Yirga Miyiku,
saxophonist Feleke
Woldemariam and singers Tsedenia Gebremarkos Woldesilassie and Sintayehu
Zenebe who
last year
collaborated with Harper on Count Dubullah?s Dub Colossus project, A Town
Addis. One of the
most startlingly original musical adventures of the year Punt seamlessly
together these
diverse threads and in doing so gives a whole new meaning to the term
?fusion music?.
Dave Haslam

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

Dipping into a stew of dub, dance, rock, trance and Ethiopian traditions,
Punt* plays host to a guest lineup that includes Ethiopiques’s Mamoud
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

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
Called Addis by
Dub Colossus: perhaps its deranged brother, who?s been locked away in the
attic for
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
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
Not to
everyone?s taste I?d guess, but well worth a try. I find that it grows
with each

Distributed by Discovery.

Buy from

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
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
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
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
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
instruments. As to be expected, the influence of the Ethiopiques series
strongly. Mahmoud
Ahmed?s vibrato-drenched voice soars over threatening bass and synths on
Kehonelish? while
a cast of lesser-known Ethiopian vocal talent features during the album,
though with
degrees of success. Desta Fikra?s sensuous voice is an asset throughout
but she and
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.
Camara?s ritti
swings alongside the reggae riff on opening track ?Hode Baba? while
Captain Sensible adds an impenetrable layer of guitar noise to drum and
bass finale

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

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