|Washington Post, Vive La World CD Roundup >>|
NATACHA ATLAS "Something Dangerous" Mantra/Beggar's Banquet MAMANI KEITA & MARC MINELLI "Electro Bamako" Palm DUOUD "Wild Serenade" Label Bleu/Indigo
French popular music has long been ridiculed in the English-speaking world, but for six years the organizers of Vive La World! have managed to field interesting lineups for their summer United States tour. Of course, it helps that they routinely include musicians from Francophone Africa such as Mamani Keita and DuOud. This year, they're also presenting Natacha Atlas, a Belgian-born Londoner who happens to be very popular in France.
Atlas began her career in Britain's ethno-techno scene and then traveled to Cairo to record albums such as the intoxicating "Ayeshteni," which explored the propulsive, street-level Egyptian style called shaabi. Her new "Something Dangerous" draws on bhangra, hip-hop and dancehall reggae. Such tracks as "Eye of the Duck" and the title tune include North African embellishments but emphasize sauntering synthbeats and interplay with the disc's many guest vocalists. The album, Atlas's sixth solo outing, also includes several trip-hoppy ballads (one featuring Sinead O'Connor) and a spooky cover of James Brown's "Man's World" (the follow-up to "Ayeshteni's" novelty version of "I Put a Spell on You"). Some of the extreme juxtapositions work, but this motley collection seems a detour rather than an advance.
"N'Ka Willy," which opens Mamani Keita & Marc Minelli's "Electro Bamako," suggests that the singer has spent so much time in Parisian lounges that she's lost track of her homeland, Mali. But other songs achieve a balance between Keita's West African melodies and Minelli's electro-jazz, which mixes loops and samples with live instruments (both African and European). From the near-traditional "Si Gui Te Mogoson" to the more crossed-over "Macary," the most memorable tracks are the ones that are grounded in Africa.
As its name promises, DuOud is two oud players. Algerian-born Mehdi Haddab (who did the Vive La World! circuit in 2001 with his other band, Ekova) and Tunisian-born Jean-Pierre Smadja play duets that sometimes spin the oud, a lute-like instrument, onto the contemporary dance floor. The material on their latest album, "Wild Serenade," employs traditional and synthesized percussion, and ranges from originals to film soundtracks ("Chase," a piece of Giorgio Moroder's score to "Midnight Express"). The closing track, a remix of "Chase," propels DuOud into drum'n'bass territory, but that's only a few steps from the pair's usual domain.
-- Mark Jenkins
Natacha Atlas and DuOud appearing Thursday and Mamani Keita appearing July 18 with So Kalmery at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. . To hear a free Sound Bite from Natacha Atlas, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8109; to hear Mamani Keita & Marc Minelli, press 8110; to hear DuOud, press 8111. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)