Brave new worlds: Antibalas, Zap Mama team up for dynamic sound

Zap Mama, founded by Marie Daulne, will perform with world music group Antibalas.
Zap Mama, founded by Marie Daulne, will perform with world music group Antibalas. Photo provided

Two forces in world music have united for a tour that combines African traditions with modern funk and soul.

Antibalas and Zap Mama will perform Feb. 3 at Eisenhower Auditorium as part of Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts 2014-15 season.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band blends traditional Afrobeat music with jazz and funk. They were recently featured on Mark Ronson’s album “Uptown Special.” Zap Mama is a group of four female vocalists lead by Marie Daulne that mixes pop harmonies with traditional African vocal techniques.

Antibalas founder Martin Perna said the band was approached about performing with Zap Mama by Columbia Artists Management Agency, an organization that pairs artists with common musical threads. The group had not worked together prior to this tour.

“They’ve done some really cool pairings in the past like Dr. John with the Blind Boys of Alabama,” Perna said. “When they came to us with the idea of working with Zap Mama, it sounded great.”

Pena said performing with Zap Mama changed the band’s dynamic in a positive way.

“It’s normally a lot of masculine energy ... 12 guys on stage with instruments,” Perna said. “Adding four talented, strong female vocalists creates a much fuller, deeper sound than we are normally able to achieve.”

Perna said the set will begin with Zap Mama as members of Antibalas slowly work their way in. Antibalas then will do its own set before Zap Mama comes back out for the groups to close the show together.

“While we have a front man and lead vocalist, the long instrumental sections are even more present than the vocal elements, and vocals will be a much stronger part of our show than they have been in the past,” Perna said.

Amy Dupain Vashaw, Center for the Performing Arts audience and program development director, saw the bands perform earlier this year in New York City and said the Eisenhower Auditorium audience will be in for a great show.

“Zap Mama’s vocals paired with Antibalas’ big, brassy, funky sound, will make the evening one of the most fun of the whole season,” Vashaw said.