The Belgian Pop & Rock Archives ...Muziekcentrum Vlaanderen
  Home | Bands & Artists | Z | Zap Mama        


Zap Mama is a group centered around the vibrant personality of Marie Daulne, child of a Belgian Father and Zairian mother, who assembled a bunch of friends to stage an a cappella girl group with theatrical elements to bring songs of different cultures.


From"Zap Mama" :

48,0 sec. - 94 Kb.

"Take me Coco"
63,1 sec. - 124 Kb.
Song : Céline t' Hooft

60,3 sec. - 118 Kb.
Song : Zairean song, arr. Marie Daulne.

Production : Vincent Kenis.
Year : 1991
Record co. : Crammed

From "Sabsylma"

"Sabsylma (what's your name)"
31,0 sec. - 61 Kb.

31,7 sec. - 62 Kb.

Produced : Jean-Marc Geuens en Marie Daulne
Year : 1994
Record co. : Crammed

From "Seven "

"New World"
51,4 sec. - 101 Kb.
Song : Anita Daulne, U-Roy

75,2 sec. - 145 Kb.
Song : B.Wyrick, S. Bogard

"Jogging à Tombouctou"
94,5 sec. - 185 Kb.
Song : M. & A. Daulne, Bachir.

Production : Marie Daulne, Yannic Fonderie.
Year : 1997
Record co. : Virgin

From "A Ma Zone", 1999

excerpts + a review hier.


Marie's father was killed in the riots at the time of the independence of Belgium's former colony Congo (or Zaire), but her mother managed to escape with three children to the safety of the pygmies, the neighbors of her own tribe the Bantu's. There, Marie was born, without medical attention, in the forest. The family came to live in Brussels. Marie decided to make music her profession and studied (apart from anthropology and sociology) polyphony in Arab, Asian and African contexts. She felt that since the African tradition is oral and transmits emotions she needed to experience this other dimension first hand; Marie set out to re-meet the pygmies. When she arrived, they regarded her different from the other women who had come to study and film - because she could sing like them.


The first record of Zap Mama was released in 1991 and released by Crammed, the Belgian record label of Marc Hollander (previously of The Honeymoon Killers) and Vincent Kenis. The songs vary from Pygmy chants (Mupepe, Babanzélé), Zairian popular songs (Marie Josée, Mizike, I Ne Suhe), Arabian influences (Abadou), South-African (Guzophela) and Spanish 16th century chants (Din din) to human beatbox (the specialty of Marie's brother Jean-Louis Daulne, who has developed a career of his own in chanson).
Although the record was received well at the beginning, it wasn't until Europe saw their live shows that the band started to gain a big audience : on the stage the vocal acrobatics are combined with dance and humor. Their exciting stage show captured the hearts of audiences the world over. A newspaper once described a Zap Mama concert as "a wild, poetic, funny and sensual trip around the world".
A few years later, the band was "discovered" by David Byrne (the former singer of Talking Heads) who decided to bring out the album on his "Luaka Bop"-label. The title was changed to "Adventures in Afropea I". The band was announced as "What is this ? It's the original instrument. The primary instrument. The most soulful instrument : the human voice. The music of Zap Mama incorporates a myriad of vocal traditions from all over the world, but mostly the funky African Diaspora mixed with Euro-American traditions. Sometimes there are words, sometimes no words - just sounds. (Sometimes we don't need words, but don't think about it - it's beautiful. Like nothing you've ever heard, except maybe in your subconscious.) The simplest sound is the most luxurious. Richness is absence. Five Women. African and European. Zap Mama live in Brussels - capital of Europe, home of the Big Molecule".
The record become a huge selling success in the States (best selling "World Music" album of 1993 according to Billboard. The triumph on the world's stages is complete : the group gets to perform at such magical venues as New York's Central Park, Paris' Olympia, the Jazz-festival of Montreux ... They also tour the United States as openers for Nathalie Merchant's 10,000 Maniacs.


The second album "Sabsylma", released in 1994, was characterized by a growing number of "American" influences on the music. The album added a more polished, sophisticated and urban spin to the group's audacious musical mix, while retaining definite roots in traditional music from all around the world (India, Morocco and Australia were also (re)visited this time).
Marie, who started to make it ever clearer that Zap Mama was her project, explained "We've been touring so intensively. "Zap Mama" was a soft, African record with a natural, round sound. "Sabsylma" is hectic, sharper. Not on purpose, mind you. I can't help it. If you're driving in a van for months, and you constantly hear the sounds of traffic, TV, hardrock on the radio ... those sounds hook up in your ears, and come out if you start to sing."

She also explained her way of working in an interview with Humo : "I'm always looking for sounds. Most of the time, I work with colors. Each sound needs different colors of voices. I dissect sounds, cut them in little pieces, order them, and reassemble them. Some sounds on this album contain over 20 layers : 20 voices who simultaneously create that one sound. But don't go telling I'm some sort of musical academic : the songs themselves come about in a very organic, improvising way. During the rehearsals, we light some candles, start a tape-recorder, close our eyes, and start making up a story. On that, we start adding sounds. We let ourselves go. We are carried away by the music. It has something hypnotic : if I open my eyes again, I find myself yards away from the microphone."


In 1997, after having her first baby named Kesia and a trip to Mali, Marie finished her third album, called "Seven". "A man in Mali told me that there are seven senses," she told. Everyone has five, some can use their sixth. "But not everyone has the seventh. It is the power to heal with music, calm with color, to soothe the sick soul with harmony. He told me that I have this gift, and I know what I have to do with it."
Surprisingly enough, the music of the band now has evolved from the pure voice-acrobatics to a more western sound, for the first time backed up by instruments. Although she previously said "I don't like the sound of common instruments. They are too ... easy. If you use only your voice, you have to work harder : you have to reach deeper to make a song sound varied and rich. It's a bigger challenge". She defended herself for this change by saying "I made music on 7 the same way as on the other albums. I only used acoustic instruments...I'm looking for instruments that have vocal sounds, forgotten instruments like the guimbri". On some songs, Bruno Meeus and Luk Michiels of the Belgian band Wizards of Ooze back her up.
On the album, she also left the all-female concept, with contributions by rappers U-Roy (on "New World"), Michael Franti (on "Baba Hooker", about the blues legend) and Wathanga Rema (from Cameroon, about who she said "I couldn't have made this album without him! I met someone who could sing high female parts and also have that male power...that changed everything!".
Not everyone was equally enthusiastic about this album : "Those who found these world-beat faves' first two releases vivacious and engaging may be disappointed this time around. Not only has leader Marie Daulne dismissed the rest of the original a cappella vocal group, she has also enlisted a full back-up band who play throughout the CD. The results are all too predictable. The back-up musicians are competent but uninspired, as are most of Daulne's lead vocals, which are relieved, from time to time, with guest stars U Roy and Spearhead's Michael Franti - whose appearances with this most feminine of operations feel intrusive and clumsy. The writing tends to be more in grooves than in songs, and the grooves are never much more than adequate. The background vocals are still frequently inventive and affecting, but they're pushed further into the background than ever, and the overall feeling is more of bleakness than joy." (Peter Travis)
However, the new musical direction and the flirtations with rap music have brought the group also in front of new audiences : in 1997 they had a prominent place both at Torhout-Werchter and the Danish Roskilde Festival.


In 1998, things grew a little more quiet around the group. In September they announced an original tour : they will visit six countries in Africa and perform live concerts over there. In South-Africa, they will perform a live-concert on television. The whole tour will be recorded on video. When they return, they immediately hit the studio in Brussels to record their fourth album.

In April 1999, the band released "A Ma Zone" (a wordplay meaning both "Amazone" - the female warrior - as "A Ma Zone" - in my zone) : even more than "7" the basis of the songs are now beat & bass, while the musical direction on top of that danceable layer is as varied as the four corners of the world. The album got a different sleeve again on the American market, but also a few new tracks and some re-recorded vocals.

In 2000, the most noticeable event in Zap Mama land was the inclusion of a Zap Mama song on the soundtrack of the blockbuster movie and Tom Cruise-vehicle "Mission Impossible 2". The song that vocal acrobat Marie Daulne did was a cover of the sixties song "Iko Iko" (aka "jockomo", originally of James Crawford, but it has been covered hundred of times, best-known version probably that of Dr. John), amidst other contributors such as Metallica, Limp Bizkit, Butthole Surfers, Rob Zombie, Foo Fighters, Chris Cornell & Tori Amos. David Byrne, ex-Talking Heads and currently co-owner of the Luaka Bop-label - which houses Zap Mama in the United States - on a visit to our country, affirmed that despite the fact that the song will only be included on the European version of the soundtrack, this could make a big difference for the band in the States, as it is much easier to promote "the band that was on the Soundtrack of Mission Impossible" than "the band of girls from Brussels with a Zaïrean background".
In 2001, it was another side-project, with DJ Krush, that struck the ear: together with their friends of The Roots, Zap Mama collaborated to an album of this Japanese wizzard, with vocals on the track "Danger of Love" .

Band members :
- Marie Daulne
And her ever changing cast of voices :
- Sabine Kabongo
- Céline 't Hooft
- Cécilia Kankonda
- Sylvie Nawasadio
- Sally Nyolo
- Marie Afonso
- Watanga Rema
- Angélique Wilkie
- Bernadette Aningi
- Anita Daulne
- Jean-Louis Daulne

Buy CD's of this band at proxis

Albums :
- Zap Mama (Cramworld - Crammed, 1991)
- Adventures in Afropea I (Luaka Bop, 1993 - Dit is hetzelfde album als het eerste, maar uitgebracht in de USA op David Byrne's Luaka Bop label)
- Sabsylma (Cramworld - Crammed, 1994)
- Seven (Virgin, 1997)
- A Ma Zone (Virgin, 1999)

Websites :
- My Review of "A Ma Zone"
- Zap Mama at their American label Luaka Bop
- Zap Mama at Primarily A Cappella
- Zap Mama at the North Sea Jazz Festival at The Hague
- Review of Concert on June 17 '94 in San Fransisco
- Fan Page by Marsha (Engels)
- Zap Mama at Torhout-Werchter
- Zap Mama auf Deutsch bei Musicbox
- Cramworld, Zap Mama's first Record Label.
- Zap Mama bij Sessions at 54th - an American Public Broadcast station
- Lyrics at Waltertje's Lyrics Site

Forum :
- Read the messages/questions about Zap Mama
- Add your message, question, cd- or concertreview ... about Zap Mama


Zap Mama

Deze pagina in het Nederlands


By Genre
At Random
Most Popular


Links & Sources
What's New?

Search for:

Dirk Houbrechts stopped working at The Belgian Pop & Rock Archives (you can read his personal statement here). The website is now entrusted to the Flanders Music Centre ( Contact:

Watch it : This site pays royalties, and was built and maintained in accordance with the terms and conditions negotiated with SABAM, the Belgian society of copyright-holders. Consultation of this site is free, but this exludes downloading, reproducing or public performance of any part of this site. Please do not copy. Link!

Last update to this site : December 2001.

    ^ up