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Zap Mama


Country of origin:

Belgium and Zaire (members from Europe and Africa)

Type of music generally:

African-flavoured world music

Status:

Most recent release, ReCreation (2009)

See also:

Zap Mama's official site

Luakabop's Zap Mama Page

Wikipedia's entry on Zap Mama

Comparisons:

Don't know of any, Zap Mama is fairly unique. (Marion)

Covers/own material:

Mostly own material, often inspired by traditional African and European melodies

General comments:

Zap Mama is a vocal group from Belgium with Zairean origins. The first time I heard them was on Radio Free Vat, where someone played their first album. It seemed to be OK. Then I got The World According to Crammed (a great sampler) which contains "Brrlak!"—a very addictive song. (kjetilho@ifi.uio.no)

Afro-European quintet Zap Mama is a vibrant group of women singers who perform a rich a cappella blend of songs, sung mostly in French, from African Pygmy chants to Spanish madrigals. Marie Daulne has always been the main force behind Zap Mama: she writes and arranges most of their material, and has even multitracked all the vocals on some songs. To say "Zap Mama" is a nom de disque for Marie wouldn't be too far off the mark. She's also a truly amazing performer and could easily be mistaken for a supermodel: she has as much stage presence and real star quality as any human being I'm aware of. I think it says a lot about the insular rigidity of the mainstream American music market that she's not a huge superstar over here. (lissener@wwa.com)

Quite possibly the best band in the world. If you're not familiar with Zap Mama, think of combining the best of Sheila Chandra, Baaba Maal, Loreena McKennitt, The Bobs, M-Pact, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and adding a touch Spearhead, and some Blue Man Group-ish stage skills. The band has changed over the years and is no longer as a cappella based as they were, there's a lot more percussion and instrumental stuff, but they're still the best vocal group around in my opinion.
     Zap Mama's first two albums, the self-titled (re-released as Adventures in Afropea 1) and Sabsylma, as a pair, are I think one of the greatest events in musical history. These are the albums where Zap Mama really developed the power and possibilities of the female voice as a musical instrument, before they began putting in a lot of stronger drum & bass instrumentation. The newer stuff still have the ensemble of 6 female voices as the core instrumentation, but listening to the first two albums can give you a much better ability to really hear what they're doing under (or over) all that other sound. If you have A Ma Zone or saw the recent tour, and you're an ectophile, chances are some of your favorite parts were the odd little vocal intros and bridges in a lot of the songs. On the first two albums, those odd little things *are* the songs, and they're explored much further. These two albums are must haves for all ectophiles, in my opinion. (cos@wbrs.org)

Oddly, at the panel discussion before the UMD concert, the leader repeatedly dissed her first two albums as having been done under the duress of her record company, and that she didn't know what she was doing musically. Considering that she and her cohort (who were presented at the time as equal partners) were presented as experts in musicology, etc, when they started, I find the changes in the group and their revisionist perspective curious (as well as being less interesting musically than their early work). (jzitt@humansystems.com)

Comments about live performance:

Zap Mama includes five African-Belgian women who sing a cappella (mostly French (?)) with a few percussion instruments. Musically they did not capture my attention, but their show was lively and a lot of fun and recommended. (dbx@aa.net)

Zap Mama has to be seen live to be fully appreciated. *Why*, however, is hard to explain. They started singing while offstage, and come out onto the stage holding up large pieces of fabric in front of them so the singers were completely obscured. It was quite a sight, hearing those incredible voices coming from very colorful...fabric :-). Beyond the 5 singer's voices, the only things onstage were the bits of fabric, used in many various ways throughout the show, a bench and the few instruments used, a gourd, some shakers and a few small things that we were too far away to see clearly. The singers of Zap Mama have amazing voices and use them in so many different ways that it sometimes sounded as if there were 20 people on stage. They are serious about their music, but have a terrific sense of humor and their vocal and stage antics had the audience laughing many times during the show. You could tell that these women really like each other and love what they're doing. If Zap Mama come *anywhere near* where you are, GO SEE THEM!! It will be an experience you won't soon forget, even if you can't describe it :). (vickie@enteract.com)

I just saw Zap Mama tonight, for the third time in my life. I'll be seeing them a fourth time this Monday, the first time I've gotten to see them twice on the same tour. They've been together since 1991 and this is only their third ever tour of North America—not an opportunity to be missed lightly.
     There is, indeed, a lot more instrumentation in their show than there has been in the past: a full drum kit, bass, electric guitar, and keyboards / sampler. But vocal instrumentation is still at the core of their sound, as always. It seems the first 5 years or so of Zap Mama were spent perfecting that aspect of the sound, and not Marie feels she can add instruments and the vocals can hold their own. They have gone further with vocal instrumentation and sound creativity than anyone I have ever seen. This is the best vocal work I could ever have imagined, if only I could have imagined it before I'd heard them.
     And their performance skills have not waned in the least, either. SEE THEM. (10/99, cos@wbrs.org)

Zap Mama is wonderful. I've seen them before, and they're spectacular live. (11/99, silme@ix.netcom.com)

Recommended first album:

Adventures in Afropea 1

Recordings:


Zap Mama

Release info:

1991—Crammed Discs—CRAW 3 CD

Availability:

Wide in Europe

Ecto priority:

High if you like a cappella world music and can't find Adventures in Afropea 1 (in Europe)

Group members:

Marie Daulne—voice
Cècilia Kankonda—voice
Cèline 't Hooft—voice
Sabine Kabongo—voice
Sylvie Nawasadio—voice

Guest artists:

Fanchon Nuyens—voice
Jean-Louis Daulne—"human beat box"
David Weemaels—percussion

Produced by:

Vincent Kenis assisted by Fanchon Nuyens

Comments:

See under Adventures in Afropea 1, a U.S. version of this release.

Adventures in Afropea 1

Release info:

1993—Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.—945183-2

Availability:

Wide in U.S., also available in Europe.

Ecto priority:

High if you like a-cappella world music

Group members:

Marie Daulne—voice
Cècilia Kankonda—voice
Cèline 't Hooft—voice
Sabine Kabongo—voice
Sylvie Nawasadio—voice

Guest artists:

Fanchon Nuyens—voice
Marie Cavenaille—voice
Jean-Louis Daulne—"human beat box"
David Weemaels—percussion

Produced by:

Vincent Kenis assisted by Fanchon Nuyens

Comments:

This U.S. release is the same album as Zap Mama, except that this does include "Brrrlak!" instead of "Etupe" and the songs are in a different order.

i remember thinking that musically they did not capture my attention but after listening a few more times and being berated by a friend who was thrilled with them, i came around 180 degrees and found adventures in afropea to be absolutely fantastic. (woj@smoe.org)


Sabsylma

Release info:

1994—Crammed Discs/Columbia—COL 476548 2

Availability:

Wide in Europe, U.S., and Canada

Ecto priority:

High if you like Zap Mama and/or Adventures in Afropea

Group members:

Marie Daulne—voice, percussion
Sabine Kabongo—voice
Sylvie Nawasadio

Guest artists:

Munyango Jackson—percussion, voice
Ange Fernand Nawasadio—voice, percussion
Anita Daulne—voice
Subhendu "Bapi" Das—percussion, voice and khamak
Sally Nyolo—voice, percussion
Jack Roskam—voice
Yassine Daulne—voice
Marie Afonso—voice
Fatima Mezraoui—percussion
Bernadette Aningi—voice
Coco Minyaka—voice
Elodie Basadé—voice
Marie Adjosio—voice

Produced by:

Marie Daulne

Comments:

I find this album very uneven. A lot of the vocal jamming without melodies I can do without (the first track is a good example of what I don't like). I guess I want a spiced-up Manhattan Transfer. I find there are many tracks I like (some a lot), but also many which grate on me. Time to program the CD player, I guess. (kjetilho@ifi.uio.no)

heh...This is *so* cool...I bought this 'cuz it was on the Luaka Bop label (and that label rarely disappoints me) and I *really* like it. (laurel@pobox.com)

i haven't been that thrilled by sabsylma...but maybe i just need to listen to it more. :) (woj@smoe.org)


Seven

Release info:

1997—Virgin—724384281625

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

High if you like swinging rhythmic upbeat world music with lots of vocal jokes

Group members:

Marie Daulne—voice, percussion, didjeridoo, giumbri, kashishi

Guest artists:

Angèlique Willkie—voice
Anita Daulne—voice
Bernadette Aningi—voice
Bruno Meeus—drums
Jean-Louis Daulne—telephone sound, vocal trumpet, vocal rhythms, vocal breath
Luk Michiels—bass, double bass
Michael Franti—voice
Michel Hatzidjordju—bass, guimbri
Otti van der Werf—guimbri
Sabine Kabongo—voice
Sidiki—kashishi
Stèphane Galland—drums, junk percussion
Watanga Rema—voice
Yannic Fonderie—emu, hammond
(and many others)

Produced by:

Marie Daulne and Yannic Fonderie

Comments:

This album is very different from their previous work. The a cappella singing and vocalizations have disappeared to the background but they are still around, while a drummer and a bass guitar player and some electric guitar and various other instruments have been added. Still swinging, but not so special anymore. (Marion)

Seven is a wonderful mixture of English, Belgium-French jazz and Congolese (or Zairese) words and music. Her approach to vocals leans heavily on scat, whether she is singing jazzy or otherwise. A very ecto album, but.... the song "Poetry Man" was always a pop 40 kinda thing for me. Surprise!.. I fell in love with the song from the live Sessions gig, which I taped. The song is on Seven, and I started to listen to it, when...EEEEKKKK!!!! the song has a deep-voiced Barry White-esque "Oh baby, oh baby,yeah" type of lines running along the bottom of the song. This was a frisson of the very negative kind. I do need to get more Zap Mama, though. (zzkwhite@ktwu.wuacc.edu)


A Ma Zone

Release info:

1999—Luaka Bop—72438-48412-2-5

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Marie Daulne—lead vocals, backing vocals, ethnic voices, keyboards

Guest artists:

Dizzy Mandjeku—guitars
Stephane Galland—drums, keyboards
Ahmir Thompson—drums on 2 tracks
Manou N'Guessan Gallo—bass on 2 tracks
Nicholas Thys—bass and contra bass on 3 tracks
Hans Francken—keyboards and hammond organ
Anthony Tidd—keyboards and hammond organ on 2 tracks
Jan De Ryck—keyboards
Patrick Nuisser—keyboards
Hamal James Gray—keyboards
Jean-Pierre Catoul—violin
Carole Duteille—violin
Pierre Michaud—cello
Eduoard Thiese—viola
Bilou Doneux—percussion, guimbri
Jean-Louis Daulne—percussion, guimbri, additional vocals
Tanya Saw, Francoise Vidick—backing vocals
Anita Daulne—backing vocals, ethnic voices
Nana Akumu Wakudu, Aningi Bernadette—ethnic voices
Manou G, Yvetta, Hesia, Sabine Habongo—additional vocals
Black Thought (Tariq Trotter)—rap on "RaFiki"
Scratch (Hyle Jones)—scratching/vocals on "RaFiki"
D.J. Grazhoppa—scratches on "My Own Zero"
Manu Dibango—vocals and saxophone on "Allo Allo"

Produced by:

Marie Daulne

Comments:

Amazing album! I've been listening to this repeatedly since I got it yesterday. The only other Zap Mama album I have is Seven, which I really like, but A Ma Zone just, in my opinion, blows Seven away. Continued exploration of vocal and instrumental textures with a mixture of jazz, blues, club, r&b, rap, pop, and traditional African music. And as much stuff as there is going on in the instrumentals, the *vocals* still predominate. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Ancestry in Progress

Release info:

2004—Luaka Bop Records—68089-90056-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Marie Daulne—all mouth sounds and vocal arrangements not otherwise noted, bottle, sound effects, keys, percussion, claps, vocal arrangements

Guest artists:

Mike Harvey—additional vocals (1)
Chris McHale—additional vocals (1)
Desta Haile—additional vocals (2)
Chantal Willie—additional vocals (2)
Anthony Tidd—all instruments (3, 4, 8, 10), arrangement (4), additional instruments (5, 6), keys (12)
Mel (Chaos) Lewis—drum programming (3, 4, 8, 11)
Dizzy Mandjeku—guitar (3, 11), lead guitar (6)
Dana Leong, Jonathan Finlayson, Tim Green—horns (3, 6)
Pablo Baptiste—percussion (3, 5, 6)
Fredy Massamba—background vocals (3), additional vocals (14)
Tanya Saw—additional vocals (3, 10-12), background vocals (5)
Lene Nørgaard Christensen—additional vocals (3, 6, 11, 12), background vocals (5, 15), claps (12)
Kesia Daulne-Quental—babies (3), additional vocals (6, 8)
Elijah Grimes, Aliyah Grimes—babies (3)
Larry Gold—strings (4)
Erykah Badu—featured performance, background vocals (4)
Anita Daulne—additional vocals (4, 6)
Talib Kweli—featured performance (5)
Common—featured performance (5)
Mfali Kouyate—cora (5)
Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson (The Roots)—drums (5, 6)
Bahamadia—featured performance (6)
Lady Alma—featured performance, background vocals (6), vocal arrangement (15)
Manou Gallo—additional vocals (6, 12, 14), background vocals (15)
Bernadette, Yvette, Sophie, Coco Minyaka—additional vocals (6)
Roman Zeitlin—guitar (7), keys (11)
Yassin Daulne—additional vocals (8)
Intense—guest performance (9)
Pat Dorcean—drums (10)
Ida Nielsen—bass (12)
Scratch—beat box (14)
Arlyn Page—additional vocals (14)
Clara Nørgaard Dombernowsky, Zekye DaulneRogiers—babies (15)

Produced by:

Marie Daulne and Anthony Tidd

Comments:

Ancestry in Progress is perhaps Zap Mama's most accessible album, and certainly the one I listen to most. The music is a new direction, really composed of sounds from the entire African diaspora and all of human history, from the most elemental, the human voice and body, to the most modern electronics. The use of instruments and programming is expanded here, and the album features well done collaborations with hip-hop, rap, and R&B artists. The new background should not scare longtime fans away; the heart of the music is still very much Marie Daulne's voice and vocalizations. The bonus disc (2 remixes and 2 new songs) is also quite good. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Supermoon

Release info:

2007—Heads Up International—HUCD 3132

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Marie Daulne—all vocal arrangements, lead vocals, mouth sounds, and backing vocals; piano (4); keyboard, percussion (8); beat programming and Rhodes keyboard (11)

Guest artists:

Tony Allen—drums (1)
Will Lee—bass (1)
Fredy Massamba—percussions (1)
Luc Weytjens—keyboard (1, 2, 6, 7, 11); programming (6, 7)
Stef Caers—backing vocals (1)
Tanja Saw—backing vocals (1, 2, 4, 6, 11)
Ida Nielsen—backing vocals (1, 6, 11); electric bass (11)
DJ Nanga Yassine Daulne—DJ/scratching (1, 2, 6, 8, 11); MC vocals (2); backing vocals (6); percussion (8)
Gauthier Lisein—percussions (2)
Chantal Willie—upright bass (2); backing vocals (6, 11)
Michael Franti—guest vocals and guitar (2)
Jeff Lodin—ambiance vocals (2)
Chris McHale—ambiance vocals (2)
Kyle McHale—ambiance vocals (2)
Shay McHale—ambiance vocals (2)
Frank Simms—ambiance vocals (2)
Kesia Daulne Quental—backing vocals (2, 7, 11)
Marc Shulman—guitar (3)
Shawn Pelton—drums (3)
Anthony Guarnier—electric & upright bass (3, 9)
Bashiri Johnson—percussion (3-5, 11)
Leon Pendarvis—piano (4)
Keletigui Diabaté (Contrejours)—balafon (4)
Lene Norgaard Christensen—backing vocals (4, 6, 7, 11)
Alex Waterman—cello (5)
Anthony Tidd—bass, acoustic guitar, programming, beats, keyboards (5)
Zulema Hechavarria Blanco—flute traversiere (5, 11)
Meshell Ndegeocello—bass (6)
David Gilmore—guitar (6)
Damien Smith—drums (6, 9, 11)
Papi—backing vocals (6)
Arno—vocals (6)
Phillippe Allaert—electric guitar (7)
Kobe Proesmans—percussion (7)
Lenny Pickett—alto sax (7)
Mike Harvey—backing vocals (7, 11)
Francis Mbappe—bass (8)
Yannick Werther—guitar (8)
Pelembir Dieudonne—guitar (8)
Milciades Teixeira—accordion (8)
Robbie Kondor—piano (9)
Michael Leonhart—trumpet (9)
Dave Samuels—vibraphone (9)
Dizzy Mandjeku—electric guitar (11)
Choir Jeunes de la Monnaie—"La Choraline" directed by Benoit Giaux and Florence Huby (11)
Fabrizio Cassol—choral arrangement (11)

Produced by:

Marie Daulne (1, 2, 4-11), Christopher McHale (3); co-producers: Christopher McHale (4, 9), Luc Weytjens (2, 6), Anthony Tidd (5), Jack Splash (7)

Comments:

Supermoon shows off Marie Daulne's extraordinary versatility and continues her blending of her unique vocals with styles from the African diaspora including jazz, reggae, Caribbean/Latin, hip-hop, and funk. A stunning collection. (JoAnn Whetsell)

ReCreation

Release info:

2009—Heads Up—HUCD3159

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Marie Daulne—vocals, backing vocals, keyboard, percussion, string programming

Guest artists:

Kesia Daulne Quental—vocals
Yannick Werther—keyboard, guitar
Miss Camille—backing vocals
Karriem Riggins—percussion, drums, tambourine
Jean Louis Daulne—bass and percussion vocal
Shora—conga bongo
DJ Nanga Yassine Daulne—DJ (2)
Sabine Kabongo—vocals, backing vocals
Sylvie Nawasadio—vocals, backing vocals
Tanja Saw—backing vocals
Lene Christensen—backing vocals
Didier Likeng—bass
Luc Weytjens—keyboard
Jean Louis Daulne—additional vocals
Lauryn—backing vocals
Bashiri Johnson—percussion
Anthony Tidd—bass, piano, guitar
Danny Freiberg—piano
Trumpetisto from Miami—trumpet
Zero—percussion
Kassin Kassal—upright bass, guitar, bass
Pdro Sá—guitar, nylon guitar
Bilal—vocals
Berna Ceppas—programming keyboards
Sophie Fostec—piano
Zulema Hechavarria Blanco—flute
Vincent Kassel—vocals
G. Love—vocals

Produced by:

Marie Daulne; co-producers Anthony Tidd (4), Berna Ceppa & Kassin Kassal (7)

Comments:

Continues in the vein of Ancestry in Progress and Supermoon, but doesn't stand up nearly as well in comparison. The songs are less adventurous, less interesting, and some of the guest vocals I just really don't like. There are some really good tracks, like "Hello to Mama," but overall I find this album fairly disappointing and it doesn't come off the shelf often. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Thanks to Marion Kippers and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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