Zap Mama was founded in 1989 by Marie Daulne in an attempt to bridge the European and African cultures that make up her ethnic background. Daulne was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a.k.a. Congo-Kinshasa) to a white Belgian father and a Bantu mother, and her father was killed when she was merely one week old by Congoelese  rebels, who opposed mixed-race relationships. She and her mother were captured and arrested, but were ultimately rescued by pymies and airlifted out of the country to her father’s homeland. Daulne grew up steeped in a broad variety of music ranging from classic jazz and blues to reggae and hip-hop, but longed to reconnect with the African music her mother would sing to her as a child. She returned to Congo-Kinshasa in 1984 to rediscover her heritage and train in pygmy vocal techniques, and ultimately traveled throughout West, South and East Africa to learn more about the continent’s traditional cultures. Five years later, she auditioned singers to form an á capella vocal quintet, and Zap Mama was born. The group gained notoriety almost immediately, signing with David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records label in 1992 after meeting the former Talking Heads frontman at a New York music conference. By the end of the year, Adventures in Afropea 1 (a reissue of the band’s Afrocentric early material) was the #1 album on Billboard’s World Music charts. Their second album, Sabsylma, earned them a Grammy nomination and cemented their reputation as one of the most popular acts on the world music scene. In recent years, Zap Mama has become more of a solo act for Daulne, who has collaborated with artists such as Michael Franti, Erykah Badu and Common. In the process, her sound has become more Americanized, losing touch with her world music roots. But Zap Mama’s early albums remain influential classics worthy of rediscovery.  –Bret Love




Adventures in Afropea 1

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