Atlas Soul
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Atlas Soul


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The best kept secret in music


"Boston Phoenix"

The Boston Phoenix (January 4 2002)
Worlds of local music
Atlas Soul
On a recent Friday night at Matt Murphy’s Irish bar in Brookline Village, an unlikely jam was unfolding. Atlas Soul, a new Boston-based world-music outfit, laid down spacious North African funk grooves with passionate vocals, polyrhythmic percussion breaks, and trancy guitar and saxophone melodies that would be the envy of any jam band. Against the sound of neighborhood patrons lifting pints and tapping their feet, a few of the band’s loyal North African fans clapped out counter-rhythms, and before long strangers were joining them. If September 11 created an environment unfriendly to Arabic and North African culture, nobody told these people.
That night, the Atlas Soul line-up was pared down to a five-piece combo with Jacques Pardo on vocals, guitar, and sax and Lotfi Tiken on vocals and guitar. Pardo was born in France to Greek and Algerian parents; Tiken traces his Berber heritage to Casablanca. Boujemaa Razgui, who’s also from Morocco, played dumbek (hand drum) and nay (wooden flute); the sound was filled out by Scott Palmer pumping out fat bass lines and Andreas Brades playing excellent drums rich with complex, grooving North African rhythms.
Atlas Soul formed about a year ago, when the remaining members of two bands in transition — Cosmos Factor and Casablanca 6/8 — merged. Cosmos were Pardo’s group, a jolly, rambling world-music outfit that has been enlivening Boston clubs since the early ’90s. Casablanca 6/8 were an all-Moroccan jazz-fusion band that Lotfi Tiken started with his brother Majid in 1989. The Tiken brothers guested on Cosmos’s 1995 release, We All Live in a Jungle, and the two bands have remained close ever since. Majid has since moved to Switzerland, but his voice is heard on Atlas Soul’s impressive self-released debut, Chamsa, which means, "Give me five."
What hits hardest about Atlas Soul’s sound is the natural funk of North African music and also Lotfi’s powerful vocals, which span fluid, passionate Gnawa melodies and husky rai hooks. There is great wisdom in a world-music outfit that embraces divergent genres (but not so many that the sound loses its identity). At Matt Murphy’s, Atlas Soul finished the first set with a 20-minute rendition of Pardo’s homage to the Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti. Pardo’s French-accented vocal sounded more like Satchmo than Fela, but the song kicks, and as they worked it through dumbek-driven percussion breakdowns, extended solos, and a chanting passage that got the whole bar calling out Fela’s name (whether or not they knew who he was), his venerable Afrobeat morphed into rhythms and melodies of North Africa and the Middle East and made sense in a whole new way.
Pardo says the North African identity brings a crowd response you don’t get with garden-variety world beat. When the band first formed, they played Sundays at the Kirkland Café in Cambridge. "We had people from the North African community coming to see us every week. They go really nuts. They throw money at you. Sometimes we had North African pop stars coming and sitting in with us. We had Cheb Nasro for a while. When he’d be coming, they’d be throwing between $400 or $1000 at him in a night." The clapping heard at Matt Murphy’s is a standard part of the North African response. "It becomes like a rhythm section. At Francofolie in Montreal, we had hundreds of people clapping their hands together. Kids were jumping on stage. I rarely saw anything like this in my life."
And Pardo’s own musical roots? "I come from a family of music lovers. In Paris, the first gramophone ever possible to buy, my father and mother bought it and played Greek and Arabic music on it all the time. They bought me my first guitar when I was six years old. I was playing three chords and singing. I sang in my first band when I was about 11." After a stint in Israel playing in a mixed Jewish and Arab band, he made his way to the US and ended up in a touring blues band for a few years. When he settled in Boston, his real desire was to play Middle Eastern songs. That was a part of the mix in Cosmos Factor, but tossed in with Latin grooves, Afropop, and New Orleans funk, it never came through with the clarity he’s getting in Atlas Soul. He even sings a respectable Arabic vocal on "Ya Willie."
Lotfi Tiken also comes from a musical family. But as a boy playing music in Morocco, he found that American sounds were the big attraction. The first group he and his brother formed, Peace Band, played the Top 40 and jazz fusion of the day: George Benson, Paco de Lucia, Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Duran Duran. Lotfi was the drummer. The Tiken brothers moved to France in 1982 and got in on the early Algerian expatriate rai music scene. "At that time, rai was underground," Lotfi explains. "It was something that writers did, traditional Algerian music. They were wiser guys, older people. So we started taking that kind of music and mixing it up with Western music."
Back in Morocco a few years later, his romance with an American girl who played folk guitar triggered a mad itch to travel again. So in 1988, he headed for New York. "I came to America just starving for music. Honest to God. I had a good situation back home. I could have just had my own business, my own band. I had support from my family. But I wanted more. I wanted to be playing CBGB’s and Kenny’s Castaway." Three months later, he was doing just that, playing bass in a rock band called Among the Living. Lotfi and Majid later joined forces again to form Casablanca 6/8, the band they brought to Boston in 1994.
These days, living off his work as a video engineer, Lotfi is free to take the music where he wants. In addition to performing in Atlas Soul, he records his own material, and he insists that Casablanca 6/8 have a future as well. He’s a dreamer. "I want to give a chance to millions of people out there, people who grew up like me — to just grab an instrument and express themselves through music, simple music, happy music, rock and roll. Jeans, sneakers, T-shirt! Who cares? You don’t have to dress up in silk to get on stage."
Whereas Tiken embraces the humble simplicity of American rock, Pardo is drawn to the spiritual depth of Moroccan trance music. In Atlas Soul, their visions harmonize, both on Chamsa’s varied tracks and in the band’s spirited live shows. Watch for them on festival stages next summer.

- Banning Eyre

"Boston Herald"


Pardo hits peak with Atlas Soul

Jazz/World/by Bob Young
Friday, January 25, 2002
Saxophonist Jacques Pardo knows a good sound when he hears it, and with Atlas Soul, he feels he's smack in the middle of one of the best musical situations he's ever been in. Which is saying a lot.

Pardo's previous band, Cosmos Factor, was a sharp and entertainingly eclectic outfit that appeared regularly around town during the '90s. The reed man also has made a habit of sitting in with international musicians when they come through Boston, the most recent being Baaba Maal, who invited Pardo to join his band for a song at the Paradise last summer.
Atlas Soul's debut CD, ``Chamsa,'' confirms that Pardo's enthusiasm isn't misplaced. You can hear the band Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain.
Stir together North African pop sounds like rai and shaabi with some funk, reggae, soca and West African hi life and you get close to what Atlas Soul is laying down. The words are sung in French, Arabic, Hebrew and English. It's true world music with a party edge.
In fact, the band even has a slogan: ``World music towards world peace.''
``Music is really a common denominator,'' said the saxophonist, who also sings.
That said, Pardo and company are still more concerned with getting people onto the dance floor than stepping into politics.
``My idea behind all this is to keep it earthy, keep it real,'' explained the Watertown resident. ``We jam a lot and a lot of the songs get down. So if a funk bass line works in a song, we try it.''
Atlas Soul is actually a combination of former members of two bands: Cosmos Factor and Casablanca 6/8. The latter, led by brothers Lotfi and Majid Tiken, played a Moroccan jazz fusion.
The French-born Pardo, of Algerian and Greek descent, is quick to credit them for Atlas Soul's heavy Northern African influence. Lotfi Tiken handles vocals and guitar and Majid vocals and keyboards, while Brahim Fribgan plays oud and percussion, Dimitri Fane bass and Andreas Brades drums.
``A lot of the pop music now uses North African and Middle Eastern melodies,'' said Pardo. ``People are much more exposed to it today.
``There are many different tribes making up North African music - the Berbers, the Arabs, especially those from Morocco, the Gnawa from the south. There are a lot of different people who have kept the traditions and it's very rich with many different grooves.''
While many of Atlas Soul's influences have deeply rooted traditions, Pardo has something far more straightforward in mind when he steps onstage with the band.
``I'm having fun,'' he said. ``It's just groovy music.''
- Bob Young


Atlas Soul - "Chamsa" (Cosmos Productions) 12-Song CD Review CD Review by
Michael Baldino, 09-06-2001
It's a rare joy to find an album that can be wholeheartedly recommended to fans of every type of music, and I'm thrilled with Atlas Soul's Chamsa. They've got it all: James Brown/Fela Kuti-style funk workouts, a multitude of Latin rhythms and percussion, catchy hooks and vocal melodies, and some smokin' soloists in Lotfi Tiken (guitar/vox.) and Jacques Pardo (sax/vox.). There's just short of a million guest players in addition to the group's six core members, but the sound is never cluttered, no one ever plays a superfluous note, and the groove is never lost. The whole affair reminds me of a wacky foreign Steely Dan or Los Amigos Invisibles and the Buena Vista Social Club jamming with Baba Maal and Orchestra Baobab. The liner notes explain it best: "Atlas Soul music incorporates many genres: Moroccan Rai, Shaabi, West African Hilife, Socca, Reggae, Samba, Jazz, Funk, and Rock. It might sound a bit ambitious but it comes to us very naturally. Our goal is to transcend over the genres, styles and music trends and to communicate to you-the listener-the passions, emotions, and fun that we share while composing and playing it."
- Michael Baldino,, Inc.
(c)2001, Michael Baldino
- Michael Baldino


Debut cd: Chamsa ( high five)
12 songs full lenght cd released in 8/2001.
We get airplay on :
WFNX Jazz Brunch, WERS Gyroscope, WGBH afropop worldwide.


Feeling a bit camera shy



ATLAS SOUL is a Boston based six-piece band performing original music, which celebrates Afro-Mediterranean cultures and urgently invites everyone to the dance floor.
This spring & summer Atlas Soul will be performing at national and international jazz festivals like the Houston International Festival, Houston TX, the Louisiana International Festival,Lafayette LA, the Montreal jazz festival, Montreal CA, the Musikfest, America’s music Festival, Bethlehem PA, the Kennedy Center, Washington DC etc….
The members are from different cultural backgrounds and countries: Morocco, Israel, France, Germany and the U.S.A., thus representing a positively genuine fusion of traditions and inspirations geared towards better understanding and world peace.
“What hits hardest about Atlas Soul’s sound is the natural funk of North African music and also Lotfi’s powerful vocals, which span fluid, passionate Gnawa melodies and husky Raï hooks. There is great wisdom in a world-music outfit that embraces divergent genres (but not so many that the sound loses its identity)”.
Banning Eyre

ATLAS SOUL sings in Arabic, Hebrew, French and English, making it not only a truly World Music band, but the only group of this kind currently residing in the United States of America. The lyrics speak of love, natural wonders, oppression, poverty, and of the melancholy of immigrants longing for their homelands.
ATLAS Soul’s music incorporates many styles: Moroccan Raï, Shaabi, West African Highlife, Afro-Beat, Socca, Reggae, Samba, Jazz, Funk and Rock which may seem ambitious but comes to the band very naturally.

In August 2001 Atlas Soul released their impressive debut album, Chamsa, which means, “high five". Chamsa get frequent airplay on WGBH (afropop worldwide), WERS (gyroscope), WFNX (jazz brunch).

Here is the lineup:
Lotfi Tiken: (from Morocco) Vocals, guitar, percussions and producer in his own right, watch for his self-released album, The Moroccan’ roll.
Brahim Fribgane: (from Morocco) Vocals, Oud, percussions. Brahim also plays and has recorded with legendary Gnawa musician Hassan Hakmoun,and Richard Horowitz, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Club d’Elf, Morphine, just to name a few.
Jacques Pardo: (from France and Israel) Vocals, sax, guitar/synth and founder/ producer.
Scott Palmer: ( from the U.S.A ) Bass. Scott played and recorded with DJ Logic. Scoot is also producing his own Hipop/Funk project: Hiptsofatso.
Boujema Razgui: (from Morocco) Vocals, Ne (Moroccan flute) violin, percussions. Boujema is a multi-instrumentalist; he is also playing with traditional Moroccan music ensembles in Montreal and Boston.
Andreas Brade: (from Germany) Drums. Andreas is a graduate from Berklee College of music. He performed and recorded with Kenyan artist Sali Oyugi, world music groups Wildest Dreams, Rumbafrica, Gifrantz and is the co-founder of the Boston Percussions Art Ensemble.

Visit Atlas Soul at: