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Natacha Atlas: Her Music Is 'Mish Maoul'

Natacha Atlas mixes in a bit of her Moroccan heritage on her latest CD.
Natacha Atlas mixes in a bit of her Moroccan heritage on her latest CD.

The music of Natacha Atlas is exotic to Western ears: Egyptian orchestras soaring over dance-hall beats and Spanish guitar riffs set to the rhythms of the Mahgreb.

To the artist, it's simply the sound of home, as familiar as friends and neighbors.

Her new CD, Mish Maoul — it translates as "unbelievable" — could be seen as a metaphor for her career,which started as a founding member of the genre-crossing British band Transglobal Underground. Her role there: chief vocalist and bellydancer.

Going solo, she won a legion of fans worldwide, and Best Female Singer at the Victoire de la Musique awards, France's equivalent of a Grammy. But in America she has stayed below the radar for commercial radio.

On Mish Maoul, she follows her own instincts instead of targeting a preconcieved demographic. Her repertoire has expanded and even includes some Brazilian elements. She has also incorporated some of her Moroccan heritage for the first time.

The project also reunites her with Neil Sparkes and Count Dubullah from the original TransGlobal Underground, who contribute as performers and producers. They share her penchant for mixing elements and artists together in unusual ways, and add a little social commentary.

Is this a voice of a future society? One less parochial? For many fans, that's not an entirely mish maoul notion.

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Derek Rath