Originally an all-female a cappella quintet, Zap Mama seeks to bridge the gap between European and African music, utilizing African instruments, R&B and hip-hop rhythms along with the human voice. The Belgian-based group is led by its founder Marie Daulne. Born in Zaire, she lost her Belgium father when he was killed by Congolese rebels when she was just a week old. Raised in Europe by her mother, she heard reggae, rap and French music while growing up, singing African melodies and writing her first song when she was 15. Daulne visited Africa when she was 20 after hearing a recording of traditional pygmy music, eager to learn about her musical heritage. After receiving extensive training in pygmy vocal techniques, she returned to Belgium in 1989, singing at first in jazz cafes. In 1990 she founded Zap Mama.
They made their recording debut in 1991 (Adventures in Afropea), combining the Pygmy tradition with the European choral style. Zap Mama first performed in the United States in 1992 and soon it was considered one of the leading world music groups. Indian, Australian, Moroccan and American influences gradually entered the group’s sound and, by the mid-1990s, the group had completely reorganized, including male singers and musicians. More changes took place and influences entered Zap Mama’s music during 2000-2004 when Daulne lived in New York. She eventually decided that she preferred the more easy-going Belgium lifestyle and moved back in 2004. Zap Mama remains one of the most popular of all world music groups and its sixth album, Supermoon, was released in the United States by the Heads Up label.