Supermoon (Heads Up International HUCD 3132, 2007)
Once a vocal quintet and now retained in name and spirit by founding member Marie Daulne, Zap Mama continues to provide solid African-based global pop. Vocal intricacies and multi-tracked singing are still key parts of the Zap Mama sound, as is a gleeful blend of styles that doesn’t reach too far into obvious crossover attempts.
True, Daulne sings in English a lot and can slip into whispery voices soothing to the ears, but the surrounding rhythms and arrangements are always African at their core while welcoming funk, hip-hop, jazz, soul and Caribbean flavors that insure sustained liveliness as well.
Daulne is Congolese by birth and was raised in Belgium, a duality that shows up in the combination of roots and contemporary spark throughout Supermoon. The chugging "1000 Ways" wastes no time in achieving hip-swiveling glory fueled by Tony Allen’s Afrobeat drumming, setting up more party-starters like "Kwenda" (laced with sax by the great Lenny Pickett).
Other tracks cool down the pace while still nudging the vocal and rhythmic trademarks along ("Go Boy," "Moonray") and Daulne always seems to know when to part the ambient curtains and let the essential beauty of the songs shine through. The disc is capped with a swell of gorgeous unaccompanied choral singing, reminding us all that Zap Mama retains a focus on the possibilities of the human voice.
Daulne assumes a good many voices here, supported by a good many skilled musicians (of whom I’ve mentioned a mere two) and they add up to an album that’s enjoyable on multiple levels.