Zap Mama | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Euro-African vocal group Zap Mama has come a long way from its modest a cappella beginnings. Last year's A Ma Zone (Luaka Bop) used a mix of live instrumentation and programming in a schizophrenic swirl of styles. Leader Marie Daulne sings in English, French, Wolof, and Swahili, and though the sheer beauty of her voice functions as a sort of constant, the tracks range from Pygmy chants to a stunning Bjork impersonation. The funky opener, "Rafiki," is bolstered by the trademark taut hip-hop production of the Roots and features guest rapping by Black Thought; hyper drum 'n' bass shuffles beneath the Bjorkisms on "Call Waiting"; "Ya Solo" is sultry trip-hop; and "'Allo 'Allo" is glossy Afro-Beat jazzed up by Cameroonian saxman Manu Dibango. Vocal harmonies, once the focus of Zap Mama's music, now merely accent the tunes--a little rhythmic effect here, some call-and-response there. A Ma Zone isn't the most original or focused album, but it should be interesting to see what new directions Daulne's explored in the year since its release. The touring band features guitarist Dizzy Mandjeku, who played with soukous legend Franco. Thursday, September 14, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jurgen Rogiers.

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