Zap Mama - Biography

By J Poet


Zap Mama, the all woman vocal group founded by Congolese singer Marie Daulne, bridges the worlds of traditional a capella African vocal music and Western pop. Daulne gradually moved the band, which is basically her backup group, towards more mainstream expressions of hip-hop and R&B. Zap Mama/Daulne’s latest album is ReCreation (2009 Heads Up International)


Daulne was born in the Congo in the early 1960s, of an African mother and Belgian father. After her father’s death, in the midst of the political unrest that followed the fall of the colonial government, Daulne, her mother and five sisters lived in the jungle with a pygmy tribe, before escaping to Brussels. Daulne put together the first incarnation of Zap Mama in 1990 with Sabine Kabongo and Sylvie Nawasadio to create a capella music that would mix the sounds of the Congo/Zaire with European jazz. The all had multi-ethnic backgrounds and sang in French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Swahili, Zulu, Lingala, and Baboudou.


After a few personnel shifts, the group signed with Belgium’s Crammed Disc label, a logo noted for its avant garde world music tendencies. Zap Mama (1991 Crammed Discs Belgium) was a hit with world music fans and critics who praised its blend of African, Arabic, and European music and the strong a capella singing of Daulne and her compatriots. David Byrne picked up the album for his new label and released in the US as Adventures in Afropea, Vol. 1. (1994 Luaka Bop.) It became the best selling world music album of the year in the US and went gold in Belgium. Just before their album was released in the US, Coca-Cola asked the group to do a commercial, and after careful consideration they did. They used the money they made to build a school in Zaire.


There were more personnel shifts before Sabsylma (1994 Luaka Bop) another a capella tour de force on which the band mimicked the sound of a full band using only their voices and explored the tonalities of Indian classical music. For 7 (1997 Luaka Bop), Daulne worked with a band and started moving toward a more commercial sound. She recorded duets with reggae legend U Roy and American avant hip hop artist Michael Franti and had a minor mainstream hit with a pop cover of Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man.”


A Ma Zone (1999 Luaka Bop) kept some African influences but moved deeper into hip-hop, R&B and jazz. Black thought from The Roots added his rapping to “Rafiki,” which became a hit and Daulne dropped a bit of French hip-hop into “W’Happy Mama.” Daulne moved to new York City and returned Black Thought’s favor by performing on The Roots’ album Things Fall Apart (1999 Geffen.) In 2002, Zap mama placed a cover of “Iko Iko” on the soundtrack of Mission Impossible 2 (2000 Hollywood.)


More changes in personnel and style preceded Ancestry in Progress (2004 Luaka Bop) a more straightforward hip-hop jazz outing, although Daulne did drop some Afro Cuban and Congolese bats into the mix. The all-star cast included Erykah Badu, Common, M.C. Intense, Scratch, Lady Alma, and Talib Kweli as guests. Supermoon (2007 Heads Up International) was the group’s most polished and mainstream outing yet, although the album sounds mostly like Daulne with back up singers. In 2009 they released ReCreation.




Shop Amoeba Merch Paypal Free Shipping On We Buy Large Collections


New customers, create your account here. Its quick and easy!


Don't want to register? Feel free to make a purchase as a guest!

Checkout as Guest

Currently, we do not allow digital purchases without registration



Become a member of It's easy and quick!

All fields required.

An error has occured - see below:

Minimum: 8 characters, 1 uppercase, 1 special character

Already have an account? Log in.


Forgot Password

To reset your password, enter your registration e-mail address.


Forgot Username

Enter your registration e-mail address and we'll send you your username.


Amoeba Newsletter Sign Up