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Thomas Attar Bellier’s musical identity was shaped in centers of true cultural diversity: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and Lisbon. A French-American producer in his mid-thirties, Thomas has appeared on about two-dozen records, performed in 24 countries, and composed for TV & film. The breadth of this experience was cemented through collaborations with some of the greatest minds in contemporary Arab music (Dina El Wedidi, Emel Mathlouthi), rock’n’roll (Jello Biafra, Lee Ranaldo), and free jazz (Sonny Simmons, William Parker).
Thomas leads Arab psych rock outfit Al-Qasar (Glitterbeat Records), an explosive mix of North African trance music, heavy Middle Eastern grooves and Western psychedelia (the collective notably features oud hero Mehdi Haddab, and members of Tinariwen). Al-Qasar toured Europe and the Middle East, with appearances at Pukkelpop, Lowlands, WOMAD, and TransMusicales. On the second of two Egypt tours, Thomas collaborated with musicians of the zar tradition, an ancient healing ritual achieved through hypnotic drumming and mystical trance. The band’s full-length debut album, Who Are We?, was mixed by Alain Johannes (PJ Harvey, Arctic Monkeys), and features Sudanese singer-songwriter Alsarah, Egyptian vocalist Hend Elrawy, as well as Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), and Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth).
In Portugal, Thomas collaborated with pillars of the national scene. He formed a duo with with Tó Trips (Dead Combo) in 2022 for two exceptional performances, and met O Gajo, who encouraged him to pick up the “viola campaniça”, a traditional guitar from Alentejo. Thomas later recorded on two O Gajo releases and joined his band on a 2021 tour playing alongside Carlos Barretto, José Salgueiro, and Tó Zé Bexiga. Attar Bellier’s score of the France 3 documentary, La notte più longa, Rome, ville occupée was entirely recorded on viola campaniça.
In Los Angeles, Thomas trained as an engineer under Grammy-winner Matt Hyde and engineer Chris Rakestraw, with whom he worked on releases by the Deftones, Danzig, Soulfly, Behemoth, AFI, and Bill Ward (Black Sabbath). In the same period, Attar Bellier joined spaghetti western rock institution Spindrift (ft. members of the Brian Jonestown Massacre), touring Europe but also ghost towns of the American West. The band notably appeared as Jello Biafra’s backing band for a series of California desert shows. Simultaneously, Thomas fronted thunderous psychedelic prog outfit, Blaak Heat (TeePee Records / Svart Records), touring the US and Europe extensively, with notable appearances at Levitation Austin (USA) and Reverence Festival (Portugal). The band collaborated with Nobel prize and Pulitzer prize nominated gonzo poet, Ron Whitehead on two recordings as well as on live performances in the US, Denmark, Norway and Finland.
Over the years, Attar Bellier grew closer to the California “desert rock scene” that he admired as a teenager, recording, playing, collaborating and touring with members of Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson and the Desert Sessions. He went on to put together two editions of Rock Formations, a psychedelic rock festival in the middle of the Mojave desert, and to perform multiple times at legendary desert venue, Pappy & Harriet’s (Joshua Tree, CA).
Transitioning from Paris to New York City around 2011, Attar Bellier was introduced to free jazz legend Sonny Simmons, who quickly took him under his wing. After asking Thomas to play guitar on his 2012 album, No Title (alongside William Parker, Grachan Moncur III, Dave Burrell, Warren Smith, and Michael Marcus), Sonny invited him to join his band for the 2012 Vision Festival. Attar Bellier went on to produce (and play bass on) Sonny’s 2014 record, Nomadic (Svart Records).
Thomas Attar Bellier’s artistic approach is constantly evolving, refined by experiences outside the studio and off the stage. In addition to contributing articles to Rolling Stone Magazine, Libération, and Vice Magazine, Thomas often gets behind the DJ decks to unearth musical gems from around the planet (BBC6 Music, BBC World Service, Soho Radio, Palais de Tokyo, “Habibi Love” nights, Radio Campus network). His musical path makes the case for a fresh new take on folk music, one that comes from the heart and deeply embedded in tradition, while at the same time encompassing the reality of our modern multicultural lifestyles.
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