As Glenn Miller, a bunch of the early rockers and tons of New Agers have proven, it’s all too easy to appropriate another culture’s musical traditions. However, to incorporate different cultures into your own art and truly make it your own is a difficult task. Natacha Atlas can and does do it — with a style, grace and beauty that few can possibly match. Of course, hers is an evermore common story of transglobal migration and the cultural clashes and amalgamations that result from it. Born in Brussels of English and Sephardic Jew parentage, Atlas grew up in Belgium and Britain and spends much of her time there and in Cairo and D.C. She’s sung in Arabic and Turkish clubs coming up, gigged in a Belgian salsa band (yeah, that’s right — autentico!), was the lead singer/belly dancer for the multi-culti Transglobal Underground and worked often with Jah Wobble.
All those influences come to bear in Atlas’s music, and are all too readily apparent in Something Dangerous. Atlas is all over the ethnotechno map, mixing her Arabic sounds with dancehall, R&B, dub and maybe a kitchen sink or two. Her voice is exquisite — a Sephardic seraphim come to earth with an otherworldly yearning that really takes hold of your emotions. While all these influences can be heard, she artfully girds them with a soft dub sound (Wobble’s influence, probably), and nothing ever seems at all false. This is a global experience anyone can relate to because the woman’s music is so beautiful, so captivating. It is nearly impossible to resist this siren’s song.