The Jungle Book

With their mix of Pygmy chants and hip-hop beats, Zap Mama journey into "the exotic"

A Ma Zone at least proves that Zap Mama relaxes best in rich, rhythmically busy textures, not their customary sonic tabulae rasae. The playful synth-tuba-bass figure lent by Speech to "M'Toto"--a New Orleans brass twist on "It's Your Thing"--even suggests that the Arrested Developer may be the Jimmy Carter of hip hop, more valuable now that his term has expired than when he was in power. And when "Call Waiting" showcases masterful deep-breathing exercises over loops of sampled telephone tones, the flutters and bloops of mass communication sound as "natural" a background for the imagined urban jungle of "civilization" as crickets in the forests of Zaire.

Of course, no matter how inclusive an international sorority she forms, Daulne is a markedly individual soul. Like most huge personalities, she seems to yearn for total immersion in an experience greater than herself. "If you are shy, you forget yourself," the singer says of her band's performances. "And you don't have to think. Our society thinks a lot."

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