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On Center: Zap Mama and Antibalas

by on December 23, 2014 4:18 PM

The powerhouse musicians of Zap Mama and Antibalas are coming together for a funk-infused world-music celebration on Tuesday, February 3, at Eisenhower Auditorium.

Congo-born, Belgium-raised Marie Daulne, known to her fans across the globe as Zap Mama, redefines the word “vocalist.” Creatively expressing sound and storytelling with tone and pure voice, Zap Mama’s style has nurtured a new generation of singers and beat-boxers.

“By bridging the tribal sounds of Africa with more conventional music, Zap Mama is ideal for music fans curious about giving world music a listen,” writes a reviewer for the All Music Guide.

In the early 1990s, Daulne founded the female vocal quintet Zap Mama, which became a sensation in Europe. Since then, the group has toured internationally and evolved into various configurations combining musical elements from three continents.

From Afrobeat to Afro-Pop, Zap Mama mixes African vocal technique with European polyphony and American sounds in a world-music revue that transports listeners.

“For Zap Mama, the African diaspora offers limitless connections,” notes a New York Times reviewer, “and the group can crisscross the Atlantic in the course of a song.”

Brooklyn’s Antibalas, modeled on Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 band and Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem River Drive Orchestra, merges Afrobeat with New York City Latin funk and traditional drumming of Cuba and West Africa. Through its concerts, tours, and recordings, Antibalas has helped to repopularize the classic Afrobeat sound.

Antibalas members Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean served as musical director and assistant musical director, respectively, of Bill T. Jones’s Tony Award-winning Broadway show Fela! about the life of Kuti.

“Antibalas’ music embodies the principles of grassroots revolutionary movements … as the disparate voices of guitars, brass, and organ all move in one unified direction,” asserts a BBC critic. “… Antibalas is musical democracy in action, and an inspiring example of a band practicing what they preach.”

Amy Dupain Vashaw, audience and program-development director for the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State says, “I am really excited about the February performance of Antibalas and Zap Mama.” But she concedes most people in the State College area are probably unfamiliar with the music. “These two artists coming together will bring the sounds of Africa to us, both in their very distinct and funky way. That’s the kind of risk we love to take [at the Center for the Performing Arts] — presenting artists many people won’t know, and when the audience experiences it, they just get blown away.”

For tickets or information, visit or phone (814) 863-0255.

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
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