Zap Mama was founded by Marie Daulne. Marie sings in French, Swahili and Wolof, harmonizing with Pygmy bushmen, and free styling in Brooklyn slang. Sound is truly her mother tongue.
Born in the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) to a Belgian father and a Zairian mother, Marie Daulne fled the country at the age of three when war broke out. After taking shelter with a tribe of Pygmies, her family eventually made their way to Brussels. There is no doubt that Marie experienced an uncommon Belgian upbringing.
While children from her school were practicing in front of a piano, Marie’s mother was introducing her to the sounds of the rainforest, teaching her the unearthly singing of the Central African Pygmies. But Marie preferred to listen to Stevie Wonder and early hip-hop from the United States: “Our mother would make us learn the polyphonic singing, but at the time we thought it was boring because it was traditional.” Instead, Marie developed her vocal skills through imitation of the sultry voice of Roberta Flack and the lip-smacking beats of the Fat Boys’ Human Beat Box.
An appreciation for the music that her mother tried to teach came later when Marie returned to Zaire at the age of 18. Hearing the music in its context and re-imagining her past, Marie found new meaning in the syncopated ululations of the Pygmy melodies. Energized by her rediscovery, Marie returned to Belgium ready to share.
Zap Mama, the world-renowned a cappella group Marie founded, is a persistent exploration of cross-cultural musical pollination, incorporating sounds ranging from Moroccan mawwal to Delta blues. It was the Zap album Seven that marked an evolution for the strictly a cappella female ensemble with the introduction of instruments and male vocals. Marie explains the change: “To use only women limits the vocal register too much, I want to see the voice go as far as possible. But the voice talks to the head. Instruments talk directly to the body. When there is a drum, it’s the body that understands. I wanted to mix the two.”
Marie moved to the United States for a few years, where she began to collaborate with its R&B and hip hop artists. Zap Mama’s Ancestry in Progress features neo-soul Erykah Badu (on “Bandy Bandy”), hip-hop artists Common and Talib Kweli (on “Yelling Away”), and other members of the Roots’ Philly massive.
After her American experience, Marie moved back to Belgium.
Zap Mama (1991)
Adventures in Afropea 1 (Luaka Bop, 1993)
Sabsylma (Luaka Bop, 1994)
Seven (Luaka Bop, 1997)
A Ma Zone (Luaka Bop, 1999)
Ancestry in Progress Luaka Bop, 2004)
Supermoon (Heads Up, 2007)
ReCreation (Heads Up, 2009)