GREAT GROUPS OF WORLD MUSIC

ATLAL
 
WORLD MUSIC SPECIAL

Atlal is a rather strange name for a music-group. Atlal is the title of one of the best known songs of the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kalsoum. After leaving the Turin-based formation Medina, Mohamed el-Fers formed the group ATLAL together with e.g. Lida Bakker (cousin of Dutch Eurovison-contest-winner Lenny Kuhr). The first concert was on the Italian island of Sicily. At the Polipo in Cittá del Mare, Tarasini. A year later we find the group in Istanbul. According to an article in Hürriyet (13 August 1977) the group gave a series of successful open-air-concerts in the historic area of Istanbul (Sultanahmet). ATLAL is formed, beside Mohamed and Lida, by Turkish percussionist Askin Genceler, Canadian drummer John Faithful and singer guitarist Meryem Bakker, the 16 years old sister of Lida.

 
 

Brother Paul Bakker would join the group for some weeks that summer. Daily Hürriyet wrote that this line-up toured Turkey and played in Konya, Mersin and Selifke, before returning to Istanbul for concert in the Rumelikavak Sariyar, Lunapark Casino etc. On the picture in Hürriyet from left to right: Mohamed el-Fers, Lida Bakker, Meryem Bakker and a part of the head of percussionist Askin Genceler. The same line-up appears next year in an article by Jean Marie Lebon in the Journal de Teheran in 1978 when the group played in the Shekoveh Now in one show with the great Iranian singer Gougoush.

Later that year in Istanbul, Lida, Mohamed and Askin hit the headlines as they get busted during a policeraid in their hotel. Half a gram hashish was ´left´in their room by a ´fan´. Mohamed was let free after some days due to lack of evidence. Askin was send a couple of years off for correction to an infamous prison-island. Lida was able, after three months in the Bayram Pasha-prison of Istanbul, to fly out when still on bail. Thanks to the incredible efforts of Mohamed el-Fers and the brilliant Turkish lawyer Osman Yilmaz, former laureate from Switzerland.

In this period El-Fers was is in contact with Ali Koçatepe, one of Turkey´s top-producers. The following years ATLAL´s only constants are manager David Epstein and singer/songwriter El-Fers. Atlal seems to have a different line-up every gig, but as long as Mohamed was there, could be sold as the group Atlal by Epsteins booking-office. ´Atlal´ with a Bulgarian drummer and two Bulgarian accordionists is playing in Svelingrad. In the al Urdun-club in Amman Atlal is almost complete Jordan, except drummer Firouz Taghikani and El-Fers. Atlal is Turko-Farsi when they play in the Shekoufeh Now in Teheran. Two months later in the Bush & Bull of Ndolo City, all but El-Fers and Taghikani are from Zambia. In 1979 the Dutch weekly Privé has an article ´Dutch popgroup victim of Khomeini´, a story about the sudden leave of ATLAL out of Iran. The group was transported out of Persia by the American Airforce, leaving all their instruments behind. That same month the Dutch daily Nieuwsblad van het Zuiden writes that the 22-years Iranian Firouz Taghikani of the group ATLAL was arrested as an illegal immigrant by the Dutch police. Two members of ATLAL are joined by George Moustaki and his group during a protest-concert.

In the summer of ´82 ATLAL is recording in the Cairo Sawt el Arab-studio. Producer is Sheriff al Attar. The program, for the first time broadcasted on the English worldservice of Radio Cairo in 1982, resulted in a boost of different bootleg-tapes of the group. In Cairo alone the group collected 4 different versions of the Cairo-tapes at the street-vendors available. Beside a couple of songs recorded by Peter Etheredge and Mohamed el-Fers, accompanied by Hadi Girgis, the big hits were the songs Back on the Nile (Jil Jilala/Mohamed el-Fers) and Cool Running (Mohamed el-Fers) Atlal was in this period Mohamed el-Fers, vocal, guitar; Peter Etheredge (USA), bass; Andrea Puddu (Sardegna), leadguitar, Norvel Siberie (Dutch Antilles), clarinet; Jos Lemmens (Netherlands), drums; Hani Girgis (Egypt), percussion; Rocky ´Chepito´ Winklaar (Aruba), percussion:.

During the Egyptian tour the group is unable to show up without bodyguards. Mohamed is interviewed by e.g. Kamel el Malach (one of the last interviews of the nestor of Egyptology for his shownews-page in daily al Ahram), Hamdia Hamdi (top tv-host of musicshow El Alem Ghani, the World Sings).

  Egyptian daily al-Akhbar published on 22 July ´82 a portrait of ATLAL and picture of Etheredge and El-Fers in front op the poster of a London concert, together with the group Madness. In this period Dutch weekly Aktueel (20 november 1982) shows Atlal with Peter Etheredge, Rocky Winklaar, Hani Girgis and Mohamed el-Fers. Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad (25 March 1983) shows Jos Lemmens, Peter Etheredge, Andrea Puddu, Mohamed el-Fers, Norvel Siberie en Rocky Winklaar. Percussionist Hani Girgis is back in the group on a picture published in Rotterdam weekly De Maas of December 4th 1983, with next to Girgis, Rocky Winklaar, Mohamed el-Fers, Norvel Siberie and Peter Etheredge.

Links: Atlal after the Istanbul years | Tiq Maya World Music | Mohamed el-Fers | Leo Fuld