It’s good to see that other blogs are talking about Natacha Atlas, not so good to see that the coverage isn’t always positive. But the good things first… Thanks to the initial post from BobFromBrockley that led me to the video for the song “Mon Amie La Rose” posted at The Egypt Blog. The blogger at the latter post states, “This is the first song I ever heard for the GREAT NATACHA ATLAS, that was back in 2001…”
Trying to remember the first time I heard Natacha Atlas, it must have been the very early ’90s, when she appeared on one of two albums I had on tape from Jah Wobble (formerly of Public Image Limited). But for some reason, I didn’t really notice Natacha that much in the Wobble material (instead, Wobble actually brought me to the pop-ghazal fusion singer Najma, whom I might discuss here sometime later – though I admit I haven’t been all that fond of her work in recent years). The first time I really noticed Natacha Atlas was on the first Transglobal Underground album Dream of 100 Nations, which I bought on vinyl, probably (though the memory is fuzzy now) in 1994. Since ’94 – for the past 13 years – I have been a big Natacha Atlas fan. In fact, if M.I.A. hadn’t given me the inspiration and title for this blog, I probably would have named it after one of Natacha’s songs. So, I’m not about to dismiss Natacha Atlas over a dumb remark that she made, and I know that she’s no dummy in general.
But back over at BobFromBrockley, a discussion has developed over Natacha’s disputed semi-Jewish identity, her backtracking with regard to that issue, and an unfortunate statement that she made. Apparently, back in the ’90s, she seemed all too happy to let the word get around that she was part-Jewish, which helped to promote the global- mashup sort of image that served her so well at the time. That may have changed now that she’s more firmly established as an Arabic singer and has such a good reputation in the Arab world. (But this is also after a time during which she has become more drawn to Islam. So, one would hope that her apparently changing attitude about her identity has more to do with her personal beliefs than concerns about her image and fan base.) In one recent interview, she also made the unfortunate remark that somone who’d said in an article that her father was Jewish was someone who “had a grudge” against her. There are various ways that statement could be interpreted. But, even seen in the worst light, we should not let that one small statement detract from all the many good statements that she has made, as she has been outspoken in her opposition to wars and her desire for reconciliation between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East. Nor should we let such a statement detract from our appreciation of the real work of her life, her music.
At any rate, if you want to see all the details of the debate, you should go over to Bob’s blog and also some prior comments here. (And by the way, thanks to Transpontine of History Is Made At Night for bringing me into all of this.)
There’s no need for me to comment here further, except to address a statement that one person made, that Natacha Atlas comes off as “an ass” in interviews. I have to say, I can’t agree at all on that. I’ve found her to be quite intelligent in interviews and sometimes quite charming.
For example, I’m going to post a little interview material that I found. I like a number of things she says, including her statement that “governments are liars.” Who could argue with that?