Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Music
cover art

Natacha Atlas

Ayeshteni

(Mantra; US: 8 May 2001)

The idea combining world music with dance beats is perhaps nothing new, but Natacha Atlas has mastered this art. While exhibiting her obvious love for her Arab roots in her music, as well as maintaining a club appeal, Ayeshteni is completely original and distinctive. Atlas has created her own genre of music, fearlessly forward-thinking while still embracing the past.


Flawlessly mixing traditional Arabic vocals and instruments with the very modern drum loops and trip-hop beats, Ayeshteni never seems to be at odds with itself. Understanding all the elements she is using, Atlas’s music exists in its own reality. It is like nothing you’ve ever heard before, but it always sounds right. Despite the seemingly incongruous elements that have been used, songs like the sweeping “Mish Fadilak” utilize them to their fullest, appreciating both the structure of Arabic music and the freedom of electronica.


Moving quickly from the upbeat “Ashwa” to the melancholy “Rah”, Atlas shaped this album to give it a sense of progression. Mysterious and evocative, she seems ahead of the listener at every moment. With her ability to combine cultures into her compositions, she constantly keeps people guessing.


With the exception of her ominous cover of “I Put a Spell on You,” all of Ayeshteni is sung in languages other than English. While this adds to its interest, it doesn’t help the songs to stand apart from each other. Perhaps because of this, even though Atlas has a beautifully emotional voice, it is sometimes hard to understand what she is trying to communicate. Tracks such as the encompassing “Soleil D’Egypte” are gorgeous in their structure and composition, but don’t create much more than atmosphere. Ayeshteni is amazing in its power, but at the same time, it leaves the impression that it exists for little more than for its own beauty.

Related Articles
10 Sep 2013
The acclaimed queen of Maghreb music releases a double-disc compilation of her most potent and genre-defying material.
16 Nov 2011
Raise your hand if you think Natacha Atlas sounds better obscured by waves of electronica.
19 Sep 2010
Natacha Atlas’s ninth album is a strong album evocative of foreign lands and succeeds in effortlessly blending international styles of music in a cohesive structure. Though the lyrics mostly elude this listener, the politics of the album make it quiet attractive.
By PopMatters Staff
24 Aug 2010
"What I hope I have achieved is to match the lyricism of classical music with the inherent poetry of Arabic, I wanted to continue the exploration of grounds covered with Ana Hina."
discussion by

Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.