There’s something extraordinary happening when musical cultures and genres merge to create new atmospheres, as displayed by the fascinating Anglo-Egyptian partnership of vocalist Natacha Atlas and violinist, composer/arranger and producer Samy Bishai.
Atlas’s discography speaks of a solo artist who continually explores and develops her route through music, also collaborating with names including Jean-Michel Jarre and Peter Gabriel; and her arrival at large-scale project and album Strange Days marks a significant, visionary shift.
A broad personnel is wholly attuned to their concept- at its core, pianist Alcyona Mick, bassist Andy Hamill, drummers Laurie Lowe and Asaf Sirkis, trumpeter Hayden Powell and trombonist Robinson Khoury. Alongside the strings and Oli Savill’s percussion that are central to this unique, balanced fusion of jazz and Arabic music come guest appearances from reedsman Idris Rahman, guitarist Paulo Vinicius and vocalists Joss Stone, Tanya Wells and Sofiane Saidi.
Metaphorical, dystopian themes abound as the swirling jazz mystery of Out of Time unveils Atlas’s vocal fluency and inflection, while spirited Maktoub (‘that which is written’) bounces with infectious hip-hop and Tsifteteli rhythms, portamento strings and choral unison. The serenely-ornamented Inherent Rhythm leads to soulful, post-hip-hop sashay Words of a King (referencing Martin Luther King and Jacques Fresco), featuring a gliding vocal duo with Joss Stone. The James Brown classic It’s a Man’s World is unexpectedly interpreted in smoky, sensual film noir (hear those strings); and impressionistic reverie Moonchild pays homage to incisive poet Kate Tempest. "Strange Days is a culmination of what I want to express through music - my hybridity and duality between the Middle East and Europe, in all its facets”, affirms Atlas. “We are blessed with these musicians, combining everything we love about jazz and Arabic music.”