Sunday, Dec. 5, 2004
Originally an Afro-European vocal project based in Brussels, Zap Mama has over the past decade-and-a-half become the sole property of Zaire-to-Belgium transplant Marie Daulne, who formed the group with some "slightly eccentric" female friends in 1990. As those friends left, Daulne's sound became increasingly "urban," which essentially means it lost much of its European flavor and took on more of an American pop feel.
Daulne made the change official by moving to New York around the turn of the millennium, and her first album since then, "Ancestry in Progress," contains many of the nu-soul and hip-hop stars whose own albums Daulne has guested on: Erykah Badu, Common, Talib Kweli. Supervised by Richard Nichols of Philadelphia's premiere hip-hop family, The Roots, the record is certainly busier than any previous Zap Mama effort. Daulne, who writes all the songs and complex vocal arrangements, and who provides all the syncopated "mouth sounds," seems newly energized. There's a richer jazz-funk element that is wholly American; it complements her own African elements in ways that sound fresher than anything she's done since the first Zap Mama album, which was just voices and a little percussion. "I wanted to create an album of how vocal sounds traveled from Africa, mixed with European and Asian sounds, and came to America," she says on her Web site. Soul music could use a second wind like this.
Zap Mama: Dec. 16-18, 7 & 9:30 p.m., and Dec. 19, 6:30 & 9 p.m., Blue Note Tokyo, Aoyama, (03) 5485-0088. Charge is 7,350 yen.