First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by Douglas Heselgrave
Mon August 6, 2007, 05:20 AM CDT
Reviews of Supermoon, the new effort from Zap Mama, are bound to be conditional. Depending upon where and when itís heard, Supermoon is either a killer album that inspires movement and dance, or it is a repetitive effort that makes people to want to scream for relief.
Born in the Congo to a Congolese mother and a Belgian father, Marie Daulne, the lead vocalist and founder of Zap Mama, has been making albums that are filled with innovative cross-cultural dance rhythms for the last 15 years. Like the iconic Fela Kuti, Daulne always has composed and played music that feeds the mind as well as stirs the body and soul. Supermoon is no exception. On the effort, she sings about love, loss, and cultural unity as well as the rebirth that follows intense suffering.
Daulne is clearly a woman who uses her work as both a salve and a weapon, and over the years, she has drawn a diverse group of like-minded artists to record with her. On Supermoon, her guests include Michael Franti, Meíshell Ndegeocello, and Tony Allen, the latter of which is both the former drummer from Fela Kuti and a current member of The Good, The Bad, & The Queen. In each case, these musicians make crucial contributions to the tracks on which they appear, and they are not superfluously utilized merely to attract potential record buyers.
Careful listening reveals a diversity of sounds that may not be immediately apparent upon first hearing the album. Go Boy, one of the slower compositions, makes dynamic use of the counterpoint between a slow, jazzy piano part and the subtle propulsion of a conga drum that lies deeper in the mix. The swirling bass and sampled vocals that interweave between the two dominant instruments create a groove that is truly refined and intoxicating. Other standout tracks include Toma Taboo and Kwenda, both of which are based on traditional African songs. With its high-spirited call-and-response choruses, the latter tune is especially appealing.
When taken individually, the songs on Supermoon provide many reasons to recommend the set. The playing is masterful, and the arrangements creatively push the boundaries of world musicís accepted parameters. When taken as a whole, however, there is a certain sameness to many of the grooves, and as a result, the collection has a tendency to become tediously tiring when it is played at home. On the other hand, in a party atmosphere, club, or live performance, the unity of the material forges a completely different effect, and this is, perhaps, how best to appreciate the success of Zap Mamaís latest work. The tracks form a cycle that takes the listener through a joyous variety of tempos and grooves before it winds down 45 minutes later.
Although there is a wealth of diverse rhythms and textures to stimulate the most discerning of musicians and world music fanatics, Supermoon does not contain music that is meant to be pondered intellectually. It also isnít an album that is designed to play in the background while sipping white wine and discussing politics. This is music to which one can dance, shake, and sweat. It is music that has the power to cleanse the soul, to ease troubles, and to calm minds. It is raucous, seductive, and joyous, and it is a hell of a lot cheaper than therapy or a chiropractor. Ĺ
Supermoon is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box