Zap Mama | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Zap Mama 

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ZAP MAMA

Their first two albums revealed Zap Mama to be just your average all-girl sidewalk a cappella group--except that the intersection they work would need a street sign declaring it the four corners of the world. How else to locate this band's weave of African, European, Middle Eastern, and even Australian vocal traditions? Founder and lead singer Marie Daulne--whose Belgian-Zairean ancestry has no doubt helped determine the scope of her music--has cast her net even wider on Zap Mama's just-released third album, entitled 7 (Luaka Bop). For the first time, she has included accompanying instruments (beyond the minimal percussion of earlier albums), such as bass, drums, piano, and trumpet; a couple tracks even allow males into the compound, in the persons of Michael Franti of the roots-rap act Spearhead and reggae toaster U-Roy. All of this makes possible the most shocking change in Zap Mama: the westward expansion of Daulne's stylistic territory to include rap, reggae, and R & B. Meanwhile, a greater emphasis on her own solos now places Daulne solidly center stage, in much the same way Diana Ross quickly came to front the Supremes. 7 takes things a long way from the pristine presentation of world-beat doo-wop--with its thrilling, stand-alone harmonies--that marked Zap Mama's debut. But Daulne has incorporated the new elements smoothly into the group's aesthetic, rather than just jettisoning previous elements to make room for them. And she still manipulates her multi-culti glee club like a charismatic ethnomusicologist--two words you don't often see in the same sentence. The new album's title makes clear that one other thing has not changed in Daulne's concept: 7 refers to the belief that some people have, in addition to the five physical senses and the "sixth sense" of intuition, a seventh ability--the power to heal with music. And even in this new incarnation, Zap Mama remains good for what ails you. This tour brings Daulne and four vocalists to town, along with a bassist and drummer. Monday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000.

NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Marie Daulne photo by Thierry DesFontains.

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