CULTURE

A bond with local act Avaton summons Natacha Atlas again

The «ethnic»-inclined local act Avaton will mark its 14th anniversary as a group with a performance tonight at the Vrachon Theater in the capital’s Vyronas district. Founded by core members Yiannis Papadakis and Panayiotis Xydias, Avaton fuse improvised playing with traditional Eastern elements, jazz and rock, and have inserted excerpts of the ancient poet Sappho into their work, all in pursuit of different musical sounds. The group’s adventures, which have included appearances at festivals abroad, eventually led to a meeting with vocalist Natacha Atlas, a key figure on the ethnic scene who gained her fame as singer of Transglobal Underground before going solo. Atlas, who in more recent times has collaborated with Avaton on stage and in the studio, will again join the act on stage for tonight’s show. Her diverse cultural upbringing has both helped the singer feel at home amid the multiethnic fusion common in ethnic music and encouraged the artist to musically explore her cultural dimensions. Atlas has Egyptian roots and a Sephardic Jewish father, and grew up in a Moroccan neighborhood of Brussels where she mastered the belly dance, a delightful skill she often displays on stage. Atlas moved to England as a teen, and quickly attracted attention as the first Arabic rock singer in Northampton. She eventually joined Transglobal Underground as lead singer and belly dancer, and featured on the band’s albums «Dream of 100 Nations» and «International Times.» Atlas also worked with Jah Wobble, co-writing and singing on three tunes from Wobble’s album, «Take Me To God,» in 1994. She released her debut solo album, «Diaspora,» in 1995. «Halim» followed in 1997 and «Gedada» in 1999. Atlas worked with soundtrack composer David Arnold on the score of the Kurt Russell film «Stargate.» In 2000 she released a collection of remixes of her work to date. «Ayeshteni» appeared the following spring. Tonight, besides performing work she has recorded with Avaton for «Kosmon,» a collaborative album, Atlas will also present solo material. «I’ll also be performing some of my solo material that was rearranged by Avaton, like ‘I Put a Spell On Me,’ ‘Mon amie la rose,’ and ‘Amulet,’» said Atlas. «Of my collaborations with Greek artists, including Glykeria, I cherish most tenderly my work with Avaton. Each time we get together is an exceptional experience. I’d like more collaborations like this one in the future, ones that combine a unique chemistry that I share with Avaton and their music’s spirituality.» Atlas is currently recording a new album, which she says will feature a modern sound. «To get the desired result, I’m working with innovative producers like Andy Gray,» said Atlas. Gray’s long list of collaborations include Madonna, Tori Amos and ABC. «This album will differ from the Arabic structure of previous efforts. I still love Arabic music but am now enjoying a break from this form of music and its specific roads,» she added. Responding to a question on how she felt about her multicultural background, and the ongoing Middle East crisis considering her Arabic and Jewish roots, Atlas said her unique position’s initial awkwardness has developed into an invaluable educational experience. «When I was younger, it was difficult for me to understand. But as I grow older, I’m acquiring the maturity to realize all the important things my heritage has to offer me,» said Atlas. «I’m a musician, and through my music I’m trying to express feelings of love I have inside, and hope for peace and spiritual harmony. I wouldn’t be able to think otherwise.» Considering the many bases of her life, Atlas remarked that «home for me is where my family and friends are.»