Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Natacha Atlas

  • Halim [Beggars Banquet, 1997] Dud
  • Gedida [Beggars Banquet, 1999] A-
  • Ayeshtini [Beggars Banquet, 2001] Neither
  • Mish Maoul [Mantra, 2006] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Halim [Beggars Banquet, 1997] Dud

Gedida [Beggars Banquet, 1999]
Although production is credited as usual to Transglobal Underground, bassist Count Dubulah has departed, and so has keybman Alex Kasiek--unless he also goes by the name Tim Whelan, as some suggest. In any case, the music has morphed so that it now bears in on the always-dominant Middle Eastern pop aspect of Atlas's mystery-laden Belgian-Arab-Asian-Jewish persona. It's good riddance to the multicultural kitchen sink--bhangra rappers, hyped-up electropercussion, metaphysical atmospherics, long slow Arabic meditations on I could never care what. Instead we get a probably shallow and definitely delightful piece of exotica--ouds and hand drums and Cairo strings, tunes that hold your ear until the next one begins, perky tempos that always convey good cheer as they reduce passion to a trope. Unless your idea of magic is to switch to English and presto change-o turn into Björk, Atlas is one of thousands who prove that a terrific voice doesn't guarantee great singing. But as the icing on this cake, she could make belly dancing look like a lesson in self-determination. A-

Ayeshtini [Beggars Banquet, 2001] Neither

Mish Maoul [Mantra, 2006]
Less mish-whatever than dichotomy--Cairo trad versus Western pop ("Haram Aleyk," "Hayam Inta"). **