Sunday, November 23, 2008

In Review--Egyptian Diva Delights

Natacha Atlas
Ana Hina
World Village

I have admired Middle Eastern vocalist Natacha Atlas' rich vocals for a long time, but not until now am I able to hear those vocals in an acoustic setting. Her newest album, Ana Hina, produced and arranged by Harvey Brough is a gem. Atlas' vocals find themselves backed by a lush east-west orchestra. And the choice of material covered also spans east and west with covers of Fairuz, Rahbani Brothers, Abdel Halim Hafez and Nina Simone.

I have enjoyed listening to Ana Hina from the first moment I placed it in my CD player. The beautiful melodies sung in Arabic, Spanish (on La Vida Callada), and English provoke a spellbinding quality--a magic carpet ride, if you will. Hearing the Appalachian folk classic, Black is the Color (once covered by Nina Simone as a piano solo), certainly adds another dimension. And the inclusion of a poem by Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo which becomes a musical dialogue between Atlas and multi-instrumentalist Clara Sanabras conjures a beautiful whirling circus.

Atlas paints images and emotions with her voice. Similar to a paintbrush, her voice strokes and brushes each note she sings. The album with its array of musical riches brings an immediate intimacy and acts as a musical embrace. I have heard a lot of gorgeous music this past year, and Ana Hina lands at the top of my list. It is certain to please even the most discriminating palettes. Atlas has proven herself to be a first class vocalist and world class citizen.


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