Zap Mama
1990
Belgium, Zaire
Music group
Zap Mama is a vocal group from Belgium with Zairean origins.

Firstcycle: Urban Afro-European(Afropean) music from Brussels. When you first hear that, it sounds something of a contradiction, but since Marie Daulne gathered a number of slightly eccentric friends around her in 1990, nobody finds it strange any more. And there are reasons for that.

Since then, Zap Mama has toured Europe, Africa and the United States, and everywhere they have gone, the audience has fallen for the eclectic mixture of styles somewhere between soul, gospel, pygmy song and Afro-Cuban rhythms. With the help of gestures and an inexhaustibte imagination, the five acrobatic female voices take the audience on a wondrous world joumey, pausing for a moment to visit a Congolese souk, and then a few moments later, soaring on a flying carpet above the Taj Mahal.

The colourfully attired ladies sprinkle the whole performance with a substantial dose of joie de vivre and a disarming sense of humour.

Both Sting and Peter Gabriel were deeply impressed when Zap brought out a first, untitled CD in 1991. finally Talking Head David Byrne signed zapmama, and the record was released in a slightly modified version (with the hit single "Brrrlak!") on Luaka Bop. During the following two years, the CD was released in more than twenty countries, and from Australia to Canada, there was talk of a revelation. The consequences were soon felt.

The BBC filmed a documentary about the group, and the United States willingly succurnbed. When Billboard published the list of best-seiling World CDs at the end of 1993, Zap Mama was right there at the top. That brilliant success was consolidated with consummate ease a year later with Sabsylma, a refreshing disc that sounds even more universal, more symbiotic, and immediately received a Grammy nomination. By now, Zap mama ,Marie Daulne was emerging as the only genuine figurehead within the group.

secondcycle:
She made guest appearances on discs by the Wizards of Ooze and Brazilian singer Maria Bethania, and then did some vocals on Spearhead's Choclate Supahighway. Returning the compliment singer Michael Franti worked on "7", the third Zap Mama disc, where the group name became synonyrnous with Marie Daulne, she posed alone for the cover photo.

The human voice still played an important role on 7, but things had changed quite a lot. Thanks to the introduction of keyboards, guitar, bass and percussion, the numbers suddenly sounded decidedly funky, and by incorporating elements such as rap and hip hop into her sound, Zap Mama had revealed itself more than ever as a versatile, authentic afropop band. In this way, Zap Mama has been able to reach a different even wider audience, as they proved when the joyous band went on tour to Africa in the autumn of '98.

And now for the album 'A Ma Zone which' is, in turns, joyful, melancholic and exuberant with Marie pulling off an amazing balancing trick, treading a fine line between the soul of the past and the technology of the future.

The title A Ma Zone is much more than a play on words, because the meanings Marie attributes to it offer a perfect summary of what the songs are about. "Naturally an Amazon is a rebel, a fighter who, once she has set her heart on something, pulls out all the stops to achieve her goal. I feel this way as well when I'm standing on the stage with the group.- as a team we share the same aim of winning over the audience with our music. Above all, A Ma Zone ("In My Zone"), means that I feel at ease wherever I am. I'm a nomad. I'm meeting new people all the time and sealing these friendships with tunes.

On A Ma Zone, Marie's tradition of working with guest musicians is continued, with Manu Dibango (Allo Allo), The Roots (Rafiki, Songe) and Speech from Arrested Development (M'Toto), who have all made remarkable contributions. The excellent single Yepe will be the first taste of the new alburn and is released on 29 March. lt will be followed by the album A Ma Zone.

third cycle:
Daulne moved to New York, a decision fostered by professional opportunities, such as her work on the soundtrack to the hit Tom Cruise film Mission Impossible II, and a personal desire to, in her words, "feel the atmosphere of people from around the world." When it was time to start planning the next Zap Mama record, she contacted The Roots family, who promptly invited her down to Philadelphia to join in the fertile creative camp they'd set up. So, for the next two years, Daulne was involved in a unique relationship with one of the most prolific musical communities in the U.S.

Of course, the result of Zap Mama's collaboration with Ahmir "?uestLove" Thompson, Anthony Tidd, Rich Nichols and the rest of the Philly Soulquarians ended up stretching beyond Ancestry in Progress. In the intervening years, Daulne also appeared on albums by Common (Electric Circus), King Britt (Oba Funke) and Erykah Badu (WorldWide Underground). She also jammed in the studio with the likes of Bilal and Nelly Furtado, and joined Erykah Badu's band, for the singer's 2003 national tour.

Yet it is on Ancestry that Zap Mama's fruitful inquiry into modern soul music can be best experienced. Nearly all the album's songs were co-produced and written by Daulne after she arrived in the U.S., and found influence in her American experience. Some bear the thematic stamp of living with the red, white & blue -- especially Daulne's newfound existence in huge American cities.

More important was Daulne's pursuit of the country's musical heritage, and how it reflected back to her own. "The American beat is a revolution all over the world," she says. "Everybody listens to it and everybody follows it. But the beat of the United States was inspired by the beat coming from Africa. Not just its structure, but the sound of it. This is the source of modern sounds, the history of the beat, starting from little pieces of wood banging against one another, and arriving on the big sound-systems today. It's genius. So I wanted to create an album about the evolution of old ancestral vocal sounds, how they traveled from Africa, mixing with European and Asian sounds, and were brought to America."

It is the musical side of documenting Ancestry in Progress. It is part of Zap Mama's continuing exploration. This is Word Music Re-Defined. Enjoy.
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