Two weeks ago, when I checked the Ann Arbor Summer Fest website, I have to admit, I was excited & pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite (Afro-world) artists coming to town, but hey, why not?
So after I calmed down & got my mind right, I made contact for press credentials & not much later, it was on & popping.
I’ve been a fan of Zap Mama’s for quite some time and so has my 12 year old baby sister Sade believe it or not. I find her music to be exciting, exotic, intriguing & comforting all at the same time. Zap Mama may prefer the all-inclusive term Afropean. Call it what you will, it’s just plain awesome!
If your familiar with Zap Mama’s music & her many collaborations with many US artists, but not her personal history, you may be inspired by her dramatic beginnings in Africa. I’ll let you do the Googling. Trust me it’s worth it, its like the stuff movies are made of.
Down to business; like most concerts that I shoot, I was able to shoot through the 1st 3 songs of the performance before I had to put my gear up. I had to move quickly because the 1st couple of songs only lasted minutes, almost like a series of short interludes.
After the 2nd song, things started to take off & the audience was starting to get infected with Afrobeats, which made many crowd the dance floor. The environment at this point became strangely harmonious especially when a call & response ensued. The crowd reaction was awesome!
Once I was done shooting, I was finally able to sit back & enjoy the set in comfort, well there was little comfort because I was kinda doing a chair dance.
Zap Mama performed many songs from her new album “ReCreation,” which I’m loving as I still discover it. She also did a wonderful tribute to Mariam Makeba, which got another great audience response. Talk about a crowd that knows its world music. Oh wait, then there was an awesome improv of Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” (Mama ko mama sa maka makoosa. Mama ko mama sa maka makoosa. Mama ko mama sa maka makoosa.).
And without a doubt Zap Mama’s live vocals are simply incredible. Her deep vocal range, improvisation & ability to make any sound beautiful were an aural treat. At one point, I thought she had an instrument, then I noticed she didn’t, it was all her. Wow!
All the while, the crowd danced on vibrantly.
Unfortunate for me, I had to leave the show early just as Zap Mama started to perform some of her more popular work like “1,000 Ways.” I was hoping that I could hear “Poetry Man”, “Yaku” or “Bandy Bandy” but I saw & heard enough to satisfy my soul. I really did.
On a note of irony, I found many similarities between Zap Mama & Erykah Badu. Each have an unique eclectic style, but the stage presence almost seems to be one. I noticed that right off. Even still, both get high marks from me.
Again, I invite you to discover Zap Mama’s new album and some of her older works if this is all new to you. Chances are you are already in the know because you’re here & on the same vibe anyway. I’m, just saying.
To see a few more images from the show, click here.