In recent months the clash of deadlines and boom in job interviews has meant very little time for fun and high jinks, save for the odd trip to London to stock up on lupini beans and khobz, and a peaceful peek at Persepolis.
Aching for a diversion that did not involve my national pride being wounded, I was delighted to discover while buying shoes – a double whammy, then – that Natacha Atlas would be performing in Exeter at a relatively tiny venue.
But first, I must put this in perspective and explain how Atlas came to be the most favoured artiste in my teetering music collection and perhaps the most played songtress on my long-journey-playlist.
While growing up the music I was most exposed to emanated from artists such as Zucchero, Ramazzotti, Morandi (who seems to reside on RAI television sets), Celentano, and latterly Nannini, Conte, and Jovanotti.
Nevertheless, as my mania for the Middle East increased during my teens, I began to seek artists reflecting the region’s musical heritage.
It was not until 2003, however, while ensconced at Aberdeen University and listening to Celtic Connections (and latterly Mary Ann Kennedy’s Global Gathering) on BBC Radio Scotland that I discovered an artist whose voice made me swoon, claw for my mouse, and frenetically type in her name to purchase her back catalog.
The artiste was of course Atlas, and since melting Gedida (1999) from overplay, and subsequently the multi-lingual Something Dangerous (2003), I have continued to irk those closest to me by dogmatically clinging to her music and espousing it as the most enjoyable and travel-stupor inducing music available.
And so it was with much glee that I grabbed a girlfriend from belly-dancing class and hot-trotted our way to the performance.
At this point, I would like to point out my great dismay at being unable to use my own images of the event: it seems that my excitement was perhaps too much and my pictures reveal less a concert, and more a seedy performance in the dead of night at a Dutch house of ill repute, due to heavy blurring and soft red spotlights.
Thus, for now I have pilfered YouTube, until my friend kindly passes on her more rational and level-headed capturings. Which are quite marvellous.
Back to the concert.
It was amazing. If I did not hold an great aversion to the use of capitals, I would succumb, for it was nothing short of being the most splendid and jaw-slackening performances I have witnessed.
Primarily, Atlas’ voice is sensational and sounds exactly – or even better – than on the recordings.
Secondly, her dancing was – and I am running out of superlatives here – incredible.
With immense skill and languidity, Atlas weaved her way hypnotically in a manner that astounded and boggled the mind.
Admittedly, her languidity did raise the question whether she was internally compiling her grocery round for this weekend, but still, it was the most beautiful, sensuous, and stunning dancing I have seen.
It was, then, an awesome display and one that only serves to reinforce my view of Atlas as one of the most talented singers and performers of our time.