Natasha Antoinette Anastasiades, a promising singer-songwriter on the verge of stardom, was killed on March 6 2005 in a car crash. She left a body of work which her music producer father Mario has spent an astonishing 7 years completing.
‘I made a promise, after she died, that it would be released,’ says Mario Anastasiades. ‘And I have spent 7 years trying to keep this promise. It’s to encourage other parents to do something positive, become a spokesperson.’
The Natasha Tribute album is released June 25 on Rise International Music, and has been produced by Mario and Chaz Dabat for The Natasha Foundation and the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. Crossing styles and genres, from R’n’B to ballads, dance tracks to cover versions, it’s an unprecedented combination of original compositions, collaborations, vocal donations and inclusions from a galaxy of stars including George Michael, Boy George and Marcella Detroit. Mario coordinated the production of the album with the help of his friend Chaz Dabat who produced it.
Standout tracks include the hook-laden mid-tempo ballad and future single, ‘Yell Cut’ (featuring Marcella Detroit and Antony Costa). Watch it here:
Elsewhere there’s the slinky eastern-tinged hip hop of ‘Follow My Lead’ (Marc Nelson), and the sprightly ‘In 2 U’, which features Natasha’s ex band mate Lara Copcutt. There’s a heartfelt cover of the Cat Stevens classic ‘Can’t Keep It in’, and two tracks produced by the Berman Brothers (‘Who Let The Dogs Out’?) – the ballad ‘Without You’ and smash hit Britney-esque anthem ‘Breaking All The Rules’ . Almost all the tracks contain Natasha’s vocals, but some, such as George Michael’s ‘Edith & The Kingpin’ and the fantastic ‘Natasha’s American Heart’ (Boy George),) were gifts from the artists themselves. The album ends with ‘Heavenly Star,’ a moving paean to his daughter written and performed by Mario himself.
Mario is a former singer-songwriter who scored a hit in the early 90s with the Top 5 EMI-signed dance act Hyper Go Go, as well as going on to be signed to BMG as part of Latin Touch. He managed his daughter Natasha and three times they came close to a deal, before her untimely death.
Natasha Antoinette Anastasiades was born to perform. From a young age she would perform in front of family and friends. She was ambitious, determined and loved life.
Educated at the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London, with contemporaries Amy Winehouse, Billy Piper, Craig David to name a few, Natasha went on to appear in Evita with Madonna and Antonio Banderas, TV commercials and TV series including Grange Hill. Young herself to this day continues to support the Natasha Foundation’s cause and has kindly made herself available for any promotion that may take place around the release.
After a brief music career as a duo with her classmate Lara Copcutt, performing in numerous clubs including the Ministry of Sound and The Pepsi Chart Show, they came to the attention of Andy Neuman (then Mica Paris’ manager) and Grammy Award winning producers, The Berman Brothers. They proceeded to produce and or write for the girls the tracks ‘Breaking All the Rules’ and ‘Without You’, which Natasha wrote English lyrics for.
Due to Lara wanting to pursue another avenue, they decided to go their own way, with Lara pursuing a modelling career and Natasha going solo. During this time, Natasha caught the attention of Marc Nelson (Boyz II Men). A production deal was signed and a couple of demos produced, ‘Follow My Lead’ and ‘No One Like Me’ in Philadelphia, US. The project gained the attention of Evelyn Junker, who at the time was head of A&R, EMI Germany.
Evelyn proposed that the tracks be mixed to a quality master level by the production team (Marc Nelson and the Nuckleheadz) and EMI would give Natasha a European deal. She would also arrange a deal via Sony UK for for the UK. But once again, fate had differen[t] plans. Both of Marc’s beloved uncles died within a few weeks of each other which in turn had a devastating affect on Marc, too distraught to carry on working for a long period of time. It would take Mario a further 3 years to clear the tracks following Natasha’s death.
Meanwhile, Natasha had been introduced to Chaz Dabat by her father and she was very excited to begin work. A new track, entitled ‘Yell Cut’ was the track completed by Natasha on the morning of her fatal car accident. It was found afterwards on her Dictaphone.
On the evening of 6th March 2005 (Mother’s Day) Natasha was a passenger in her own car. Her learner-driver friend, Panos Savvides, 17, who was behind the wheel driving, lost control of the vehicle in Whetstone and crashed into a tree. He had a provisional driver’s license and was not insured on Natasha’s car.
In a moment, Natasha’s life was extinguished.
Distraught by grief, Mario pledged to complete the unfinished album. George Michael came on board after Natasha’s memorial at New Southgate cemetery. ‘We played ‘Without You’,’ says Mario, ‘released a dozen doves, and afterwards the priest took me aside and said that he was also George Michael’s priest, and would set about an introduction.’ Michael was touched and donated his previously unreleased version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Edith & the Kingpin.’
Many artists, including Boy George, Yusuf Islam, and Marcella Detroit got involved through Chaz and John Themis. Marcella had lost a niece and was touched by the project so flew over and laid vocals down on the lead track ‘Yell Cut,’ whilst Anthony Costa knew Natasha from Sylvia Young. Yusuf’s son Yoriyos wrote ‘Free Spirit’ as he felt it best described who she was.
It’s an album like no other, a wonderful journey of a young girl’s dream, passion, drive and determination to succeed; to live life doing what she loved: writing, singing and performing.
‘We need to raise awareness with regards to reckless driving. If the project can help save one person’s life, my daughter’s life will not have been lost in vain.’
Visit The Natasha Foundation