Fifteen years ago, there emerged from Belgium a singular new sound, spanning soul, pop, jazz and world music. The culprits were an international collective known as Zap Mama, fronted by the Congo-born founder and lead vocalist Marie Daulne. Now, six albums and several personnel changes later, Daulne and her current crew—the other original members are all long gone—have invaded the United States with 11 tracks of dynamite assembled under the intriguing title Supermoon (“To be a supermoon,” explains Daulne, “is to be true to yourself and others.”)
If you took an electric fan, plugged it in, turned it on high and plunged it into a brimming bathtub, you’d come close to replicating Zap Mama’s aural effect. On the two opening tracks, they suggest a head-on collision of Björk and Bob Marley, concurrent with a Sputnik landing, in the middle of a traffic-snarled Manhattan intersection. Then, just as you’re getting used to the off-the-charts cacophony, Daulne slides into a seductive Maria Muldaur-ish groove for the title track, and helps build a wall of Asian-influenced percussion behind the sharp-edged “Go Boy.” The driving “Affection” reverberates with stardust-lit urgency; “Toma Taboo” blends aching moans and aggressive karate chops, then it’s back to the dance floor for the pulsating, techno-pop “Kwenda” and the twirling “Gati.” Yet, beneath all the production wizardry and wild energy are lyrics, most written in English and all drawn from Daulne’s vivid life experiences, that are bold, brave and powerfully life affirming.