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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Natacha Atlas & The Mazeeka Ensemble

By Ernest Barteldes
Published September 18, 2008

Ana Hina
World Village

On her latest release, Natacha Atlas opted to go into a more traditional Arabic setting, using mostly acoustic backing band and leaving behind the electronic feel that was such a part of her previous work all the way back to Transglobal Underground. What catches the listener's attention here, though, are the songs that go even further afield: she is accompanied solely by piano and strings on the English-language “Black Is The Colour.” Also notable is the eerie sounding  “La Vida Callada,” which was recorded as a duet with Clara Sanabras (who plays ukulele) and features multi-layered vocals around a poem originally written by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.  Ana Hina is acquired taste – the disc doesn't automatically thrill you, but after repeated hearings you finally get it – which is probably the point the singer attempted to make.