Zap Mama's Supermoon

Ambitious, worldly pop avoids humorless pomposity

Supermoon's opening track, "1000 Ways," aims for nothing less than transforming the human condition: "Thousand billion people/Thousand ways to talk/Thousand ways to smile." With lesser voices, that "one world" ambition would curdle into cheese, but the generous spirit and coolly delicate chops of Marie Daulne (a/k/a Zap Mama) inform a set that manages to be both monumental and humorous.

As ever, it's all rooted in the forests of Central Africa. The pygmies there had rescued her family after her Belgian father was killed during Congo's civil war— they were airlifted to Brussels when Daulne was just three weeks old. So her music lessons took place in a chilly European kitchen as her Bantu mother washed dishes and warbled the pygmy forest songs that Daulne eventually tweaked into a cappella sounds that the rest of us could understand on Adventures in Afropea, Vol. 1, her 1993 debut with Zap Mama, then composed of five mostly European women. The focus has since narrowed to Daulne's shifting layers of vocal effects, and the instrumental arrangements have expanded throughout African, Caribbean, and African-American beat routes, with guest musicians drawn from world, soul, jazz, and pop—like-minded souls all. Supermoon's lengthy list includes bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, drummer Tony Allen, and most fittingly, Michael Franti for "Hey Brother," a lovely call-and-response duet across continents. With tracks like "Affection," a eulogy for a close friend; "Kwenda," adapted from an African children's game; and "Gati," based on a chant she heard upon return- ing to Congo as an adult, this is Daulne's most personal and infectiously buoyant release yet.

 
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