Zap Mama at 8x10 2.jpg
Marie Daulne singing in Baltimore, US on November 2007
Born 20 October 1964 (age 52)
Isiro, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Marie Daulne /ˈduːlᵻn/ (born 20 October 1964) is a Belgian singer.
Daulne was born in Isiro, Haut-Uele District, Democratic Republic of the Congo to a Belgian who was killed that same year by Simba rebels, and to a local Congolese woman. Daulne and her mother and sisters were airlifted out to Kinshasa in an emergency evacuation by Belgian paratroopers and flown to Belgium because their father had been a Belgian citizen. Daulne was raised in Belgium and as of 2007 calls Brussels home, but lived in New York City for three years starting in 2000.
Daulne is the founder and lead singer of the music group Zap Mama whose second album, Adventures in Afropea 1, "became 1993's best-selling world music album and established Zap Mama as an international concert sensation." With "over six albums and countless concerts, she continues to pay tribute to the family's saviors." Daulne insists that "one tune on each of her reggae-, soul-, funk- and hip-hop-infused albums be a traditional Pygmy song."
Daulne says her mission is to be a bridge between the European and the African and bring the two cultures together with her music. "What I would like to do is bring sounds from [Africa] and bring it to the Western world, because I know that through sound and through beats, that people discover a new culture, a new people, a new world." Daulne specializes in polyphonic, harmonic music with a mixture of heavily infused African instruments, R&B, and Hip-hop and emphasizes voice in all her music. "The voice is an instrument itself," says Daulne. "It's the original instrument. The primary instrument. The most soulful instrument, the human voice." Daulne calls her music afro-European.
1 Early life and musical origins
1.1 Interest in European music
1.2 Interest in African music
1.3 Return to Africa
1.4 African European music
1.5 Citizen of the world
2 Zap Mama
2.1 First Cycle: Adventures in Afropea 1 and Sabsylma
2.2 Second Cycle: Seven and A Ma Zone
2.3 Third Cycle: Ancestry in Progress and Supermoon
4 Collaboration with other artists
5 Humanitarianism and activism
Early life and musical origins
Daulne was born in Isiro, (pronunciation: "ee SEE roh" or [IPA] /i 'si ro/) Haut-Uele District, one of the largest cities in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as the fourth child of a white civil servant, Cyrille Daulne, a Walloon (French-speaking Belgian) and Bernadette Aningi, a woman from Kisangani, formerly Stanleyville, the third largest city in Congo Kinshasa.
When Daulne was only a week old, her father was attacked and killed by Simba rebels, who were opposed to mixed-race relationships. "He did not have a chance to come with us because he was captured," Daulne says. "He said to my mother, 'Escape,' and we escaped into the forest, and the Pygmies hide us while we were waiting to see what happens," says Daulne. "He was a prisoner of the rebels for a while, then they killed him." Her mother was arrested by the rebels but was later set free because she spoke their language. Daulne pays tribute to those pygmies who rescued her family in the song "Gati" from Supermoon. "They saved my family and many others during the Congolese rebellion," Daulne says, "and they deserve recognition for that." "My promise to them was I used your song to be known in the world and my goal is to talk about you," Daulne added.
After eight months in the interior of the country, Daulne and her mother,brother and sisters were eventually airlifted out to Isiro in an emergency evacuation by Belgian paratroopers and flown to Belgium because their father had been a Belgian citizen. "I think the experience of the political situation is more my mother, who had to survive. I was a baby, and I just was protected by my mother. What I know that I learned from my mother is to be strong and to stay positive in any kind of situation; that's the best weapon to survive. That's what I learned, and this is the main message I pass into my music," says Daulne. Everything was different when Daulne, her mother, five other sisters, and an aunt arrived in Belgium. "When we arrived, it was snowing, and my mother said, 'Look — the country of white people is white!'" says Daulne.
Growing up in Belgium was hard for Daulne. "It was hard as a kid, you want to look like everybody else, and there aren’t many black people in Belgium – compared to England, or America or France," says Daulne. "It became easier as I grew older. There were more black role models about – musicians and sports stars. At school I started to see my mixed heritage as a bonus – I could be part of both the African and Belgian communities."
Interest in European music
Daulne listened to European music as she grew up. "We had the radio when I was growing up in Belgium, so we heard a lot of French music. And of course, American music was also very popular all over Europe. Since our mother did not want us to watch TV in our home, we entertained ourselves by creating our own music. We were very musical." Daulne was introduced to black music watching television. "When I was growing up, there weren't many black people in Europe -- my family was alone. Then I saw an American musical comedy with black people on TV. And I couldn't believe it. I said, "That's us!" My whole fantasy life was based on that movie." Daulne felt a special connection to blue songs like Damn your eyes by Etta James. "When I was a teenager I listened to a lot of American blues," says Daulne. "That song brought me happiness while I was going through the pain of a broken love. It helped me to open the door and see the life in front of me." Daulne said she sang that song as a teenager "alone in my room." "It’s a magic song, it transforms — when I sang that song I cried, and you need to cry to heal." "I sing it now and I hope, in my turn, that I can help another teenager to do the same if they are having pain from love."
When Daulne was 14 she went to England and first heard reggae. "I discovered Bob Marley -- my favorite album was Kaya. I know that whole album by heart." Then Daulne became interested in the rap music of Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys. "I was into breakdancing at the time. I formed a gang, and we would beatbox like the Americans, like the Fat Boys."
Interest in African music
"When I was growing up, I refused all this tradition," Daulne says. "It was boring . . . because it was not what we talked about at school, the bands of the moment. Nobody was talking about Pygmies and sounds from Africa. It was a little bit of shame to talk about the African roots." But although Daulne was encouraged to adopt the language and culture of Belgium, her mother kept Congolese music alive in the household. "In Africa, before you eat or do something, you sing to call the spirits of the peace, and my mother teach me that," Daulne says. "I discover that, with my two cultures, I have something very rich in me."
Although Daulne remembers that her mother sang some songs from Congo Kinshasa around the house, her mother did not teach them to the children, stressing mastery of French instead but after Daulne left home she remembered the African songs her mother sang to her as a child. "Our mother would make us learn the polyphonic singing, but at the time we thought it was boring because it was traditional," says Daulne. When Daulne went away to school, here sister and Daulne started to sing African melodies. "When I left home, I missed those songs, and in the school choir, I wondered why we didn't use African harmonising. So my sister and I started to sing African melodies, and Zap Mama was born. I wrote my first song at 15, and my artist friend Nina said that what we were doing was amazing. She helped me to find a gig, and from that day, it has been non-stop."
But Daulne didn't really get interested in singing until an accident she sustained while dancing in a stage show left her unable to participate in athletics. "I wanted to be a runner, but then I broke my leg and I was finished with sports. I stayed at home, listening to music. I was recording sounds all the time -- I would listen to sounds repeating for hours. But there was something that I needed still, and that's when I decided to go to Africa, to the forest."
Return to Africa
Distribution of Pygmies according to Cavalli-Sforza
In the documentary film Mizike Mama, Daulne and her family recall a reverse cultural tug-of-war for her allegiance during her childhood. Her mother feared that Daulne would grow up too African and so did not teach her traditional songs. Daulne first heard a recording of traditional pygmy music when she was 20. "At 20, something happened in me," Daulne says. "When you pass 13, 14, you want to look like the others, but after a certain point you want to be unique. And those sounds did something to me."
Daulne studied jazz in college but decided that she wanted to focus on a different kind of sound that blended musical traditions from around the globe. The Antwerp School of Jazz provided Daulne a brief period of formal training where she studied "Arab, Asian and African polyphony." Then Daulne decided to return to Congo Kinshasa in 1984 to learn about her heritage and train in pygmy onomatopoeic vocal techniques. "When I went to the Congo, I hadn’t thought of being a musician. Not at all. But I was there, and I was standing in the middle of the forest, hearing the music that had been a part of my earliest memories, and it was like an illumination, like a light," Daulne said.
Daulne made further trips to Africa. "I go all around Africa. I started where I was born, in the forest of Zaire. After that I branched out to West Africa, South Africa, East Africa. It [is] very easy for me to learn because all African cultures seem to have something in common the music and the voices," Daulne says.
Although Daulne draws inspiration from Africa, she does not call Africa home. "You know when I went back to Congo, I thought I would have a welcome like I was part of the family, part of the country, but that was not the case," Daulne said. "They treated me like a Belgian come to visit as a tourist. I saw that that is not especially a place to call home." But Daulne is proud of the success of her music in Congo Kinshasa and says it helps restore a sense of pride and history to Africans and Westerners of African descent. "In Africa they want to change, to become like white people, but I tell them, 'Stay like you are,'" says Daulne. "In the beginning my mother didn't understand why I always asked her about traditional music, because everybody wants to do American-style music. Colonization changed the mentality of our parents. After Zap Mama, my mother and my aunt began to sing together again, and now my aunt says, 'Thank you.'"
African European music
Daulne's music is a hybrid of African and European influences. "If people want to know where my sounds are from, I say I’m an African European," says Daulne. "There is the African American, and then there is the African European like me. My background is from Africa, and I grew up in the urban world of Europe. And I would say Afro-urban is easy to understand because it is urban music, but at the same time you have African elements in it." "I think it’s because I’m born of two cultures. From my African heritage, I receive a lot of different harmonies and sounds and ways to express melody and probably all of this makes up what I do," says Daulne. "Some say it’s African music that I do, but definitely not. I’m not African at all. My harmony is from Europe. I use things from all over the place. I use all these sounds and people can hear it. It’s because we are all human-we all want the same things."
Citizen of the world
Other influences in Daulne's music include Brazil where she visited in 2008. "I fell in love. The weather, the music — I was like a child. It's amazing," Daulne says. Daulne went to Brazil "to first discover the country. The beauty of the city, the people walking, and haircuts — just feel what it is to be a woman in Brazil. I did my braid over there with a woman from the favelas and I have a friend who speaks Portuguese who was able to translate and have conversations. Now my music will have a Brazilian touch on my next album, definitely."
Daulne has traveled the world to seek cultural connections with people around the planet. "Inside me, I feel like a citizen of the world," Daulne says. "In New York, it was the case that I found a lot of people from all over the place and what we talk about is what the human being can exchange as a person. The main thing I want in songs is what the feeling of the human being is."
Daulne defines her music over the years as evolving from an a cappella quintet to instruments and a lead voice. "I’m a nomad. I like to discover my sound with different instruments, different genres. For me it’s normal. My name is Zap Mama – it’s easy to understand that it’s easy for me to zap in from one instrument to another, a culture, a style. I’m more a citizen of the world, not an American or Belgian." The word Zap also means to switch TV channels or in this context to switch cultures. Zap Mama have released seven full-length albums: Zap Mama (1991), Adventures in Afropea 1 (1993), Sabsylma (1994), Seven (1997), A Ma Zone (1999), Ancestry in Progress (2004), and Supermoon (2007) that fall into three cycles.
First Cycle: Adventures in Afropea 1 and Sabsylma
Marie Daulne says her mission is to be a bridge between the European and the African and bring the two cultures together with her music. Daulne specializes in polyphonic, harmonic music with a mixture of heavily infused African instruments, R&B, and Hip-hop. Daulne emphasizes voice in all her music, as she says "the voice is an instrument itself."
Daulne returned to Belgium ready to begin making her own music. "Spending time with the pygmies, all the music came to me," Daulne says. "And when I came back to Belgium, I found all the energy to put it all together, and to find singers to sing with me." By 1989 Daulne had spent several years singing in Brussels in jazz cafes when she decided to create a group to merge the cultures of her life and in 1990 founded the group Zap Mama. "I didn't want to use my own name, I didn't really feel like it would come from me, because it was like the spirit of the ancestors talking to me and using me to translate what's going on," Daulne says.
Daulne couldn't work as a solo artist. "I saw in Zaire that I have to mix with other people, because with me alone, the polyphony is not there," says Daulne. "I knew there must be singers in the world I could mix with, and I found them." Daulne auditioned scores of female singers looking for the right combination of voices for an a cappella ensemble. "When I did my first album, I was looking for girls that were the same mix as me-
Third Cycle: Ancestry in Progress and Supermoon
Daulne (center) toured in 2007 to support the release of Supermoon appearing at the 8 x 10 in Baltimore, Maryland on 1 November 2007.
Daulne moved to New York in 2000. "I've never been welcome in any country as my own country," says Daulne. "In Europe, they talk to me as if I'm from Congo. In Congo, they act like I'm from Europe. The first time I felt at home was in New York. I said, ‘Here is my country. Everybody is from somewhere else. I feel so comfortable here.'" Ancestry in Progress (2000) reflects Dualne's new life in the United States. "The American beat is a revolution all over the world," Daulne says. "Everybody listens to it and everybody follows it. But the beat of the United States was inspired by the beat coming from Africa. Not just its structure, but the sound of it. This is the source of modern sounds, the history of the beat, starting from little pieces of wood banging against one another, and arriving on the big sound-systems today. It's genius. So I wanted to create an album about the evolution of old ancestral vocal sounds, how they traveled from Africa, mixing with European and Asian sounds, and were brought to America."
Daulne collaborated with the Roots collective in Philadelphia who acted as producers for Ancestry in Progress. "They invited me to do some of my sounds in one of their albums, and that was where the relationship develop[ed]," says Daulne. "The hardest [thing was] that at the time my English was so little that I had no way to express myself, so I didn’t know how it happened in the Philly world or the United States, or the way it work[ed] with studios. I was there, like in the middle of an ocean with my sounds, my spirit and my vibe." "What I like about the Roots is their instruments, the jazz background, which is helping to have a real, acoustic, organic sound," says Daulne. "If you take it and make it groovy, it seems like our life is lighter and easier. ... And I loved the beatbox which some of their members were doing, grooving with only [their] mouth." One of the tracks includes baby sounds from Daulne's youngest child, Zekey. Ancestry in Progress (2004), reached #1 on the Billboard World Music Album chart.
Daulne moved back to Belgium after three years in the United States and now calls Brussels home. "I lived in the United States from 2000 to 2004 and it is a place with so many stars. When I met a lot of big celebrities I realized I was not a big star and that I didn't want to be, because your life would be a habit, stuck in this and that. I prefer the singularity. I prefer to be me." Daulne finds life easier in Belgium. "I used to live in New York, and the system in Belgium is much better than in America. It’s much easier for families here." "With my family, my husband, my children, the people I love — that is home." Daulne still draws inspiration from her travels. "Currently, I feel the need to go to England, because a lot of interesting things are happening over there. In my band, there are a lot of young musicians who teach me completely new things. They challenge me - and that is the way I like it," Daulne says. Daulne also found American interests and values different from Europe. "American people are so addicted to music — sports and music," says Daulne. "Where I live, with the French influence, it's the foods that are very important, and literature — all this probably more important than sports and music."
In Supermoon (2007), Daulne's vocals take centerstage. "When the audience appreciates the art of the artist, the audience becomes the sun and makes the artist shine as a full moon," says Daulne. Supermoon is also one of Daulne's most personal statements with songs like "Princess Kesia," an ode to her daughter and how she is no longer a baby but a beautiful girl. "With Supermoon, I reveal the way I chose to live when I started my career,” says Daulne. “It’s very intimate…You’re seeing me very close up. I hope that’s a kind of intimacy that people will understand. I’m opening a door to who I am." "I always used to hide myself, and I'm not complaining about it, but now it is time to show my eyes and my femininity and my delicate side," said Daulne. "I am proud to be so feminine, because I have taken the time to develop the inside of my femininity. Now that I have that, I can face anybody. And if anybody challenges me, there is no problem."
Zap Mama (1991)
Adventures in Afropea 1 (1993)
A Ma Zone (1999)
Ancestry in Progress (2004)
Collaboration with other artists
Daulne is a guest performer on the song "Listener Supported" by Michael Franti, from the album "Stay Human".
Daulne is featured on the track "Ferris Wheel" from Common's 2002 album Electric Circus.
Daulne is featured on the soundtrack to La Haine, a French film which she recorded with her brother Jean Louise Daulne.
Daulne is a guest performer on the song "Comin' to Gitcha" by Michael Franti, from the album "Chocolate Supa Highway".
Daulne is featured on the song "Danger of Love" by DJ Krush, from the album Zen.
Humanitarianism and activism
An active humanitarian, Daulne devotes much of her time working to protect human rights and fight global poverty with organizations such as Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, CARE, and the United Nations. In 1993 Zap Mama was asked to sing a commercial for Coca-Cola and Daulne's initial response was no. However Daulne had second thoughts. "But we do like Robin Hood," Daulne said. "I thought there is money there that can go to help people. I see poor people and think, 'Maybe one day when Zap Mama is over, I can help people.' Then I thought, I can help people now." Zap Mama made the commercial and used the money to help build a school in Africa.
"I am here to fight for peace," says Daulne. "I grew up in a country where there were mostly white people and they always pointed out that I was different, that I was black. We shouldn't ignore the problems. But always shouting, 'There is a problem! There is a problem!' will not help us to arrive at a solution. I think about what I can do to bring an end to it, then I face the problem and attack it one step at a time." Daulne says that her music speaks for "the world that nobody wants to talk about - the disabled people. And people like us, we’re all looking for the best, we all have the same energies and mindset, and to remind us that it is not only our country and what TV tells us…we need to travel and open our mind and not follow especially the system, the manipulation of the politics that bring us fear. If we know what’s going on in this world, we see by our eyes and still with our bodies we can start to think about ourselves. This is what I want to see."