The intriguing headliner is the vocal group Zap Mama, veterans of Bumbershoot and darlings of Continental Europe and Africa. They earn the rare "Euro-Pygmy" badge because the leader, Marie Daulne, is half Belgian and half African, and while not being a Pygmy herself, she does have a wild story about being stashed by Pygmies during the Zairian revolution of 1960. For those who are wondering -- no, the Pygmy sound has nothing to do with America's own musical "little people," the Munchkins.
But Pygmy music is just the beginning -- the four female vocalists of Zap Mama cook with everything from En Vogue R&B to French rap to Arabic laments. And don't expect that crunchy, preachy aftertaste most American- based world music gives you: Zap Mama rock because entertainment is their guiding principle.
That smooth approach should make a good match for the self-described "soul band" Maktub, Seattle's own attempt at the rebirth of slick. The contradiction is undeniable: Seattle, with its long relationship with rock and reputation for white culture, is an unlikely breeding ground for soul music. Maktub's debut CD, Subtle Ways, demonstrates some of the conflict. From the anthem rock of "Intuition" to the buttery "First Time," the group seems torn between where they come from and where they want to go.
The mediation lies with Maktub singer Reggie Watts. On stage, Watts has free range over the songs, and like Marie Daulne, has the voice to break down any walls that conflicting genres might throw in his way. There are still some sticking points and moments of self-indulgent songwriting, but Maktub have got more than enough talent and regional support to be headliners themselves.
Pygmy Sound Meets Seattle Soul