ZAP MAMA: My first choice as a teenager was to become an Olympic champion. Music was the second love for me because it was so deep inside. I never thought it was possible to get money for this profession, especially with the training that I had. But when I did a trip to Africa it made me realize who the African woman is, who my mother was, and who I could be. I found a part of myself. I realized in Africa there is a huge culture of music that should be known in the western world. That’s when I really started to have a new view of music. And then I discovered all the new vocal techniques and harmony and new rhythms. You can’t really explain what that is—especially the oral tradition. It has a lot of spirituality and soul that is passed along only from mother to mother or family to family from generation to generation. All this helped me to put together a music group. I put together an acappela group of four other singers to talk about all these sounds and this culture. That was 17 years ago.
AD: Has your sound changed over time?
ZM: The essence, no. The goal of why I’m doing music, no. But there is an addition of feelings that has become part of it. When I started I was teaching music and teaching what I learned from both of my cultures: European and African. Being involved in the music business opened up a lot of other doors. I’ve been exposed to other genres: blues, rock, hip hop—all the styles that I really love as a European citizen and the styles I love as an African too. I ask myself now, How can I bring the music together? For the third album, I met an American who was interested in the new music and who opened the door to working in the studio and exchanging music with me.
AD: What is your songwriting process?
ZM: It depends. Sometimes it is a sound that inspires me and there is a story that wants that sound. Or sometimes it comes with a beat and I say, “Hmm, I like the beat,” and that is what inspires me. Sometimes a situation of life or a dream will wake me up in the middle of the night and I start writing lyrics. It’s really many things.
AD: What makes an amazing show for you?
ZM: When all the members of the band are in one direction. They achieve one spirit together—they become one.
AD: What do you want people to take with them from your performance?
ZM: Joy, happiness, and hope. And love.
AD: You’re coming back this fall for Austin City Limits. How was your show last year?
ZM: It was problematic. We didn’t have time to set up the microphone. The energy was amazing though, so you have to forget about the technical issues. We had a wonderful love fight with water after the show. It was so warm. We had a wonderful time.
AD: Tell us about your new album and what it means to you.
ZM: I chose the title, Supermoon, because it is a reaction of all the systems of the stars. I don’t know how it is in the United States, but here there is a really big focus on having to be a super star. My reaction is no, you have to be you, you have to be yourself and happy with what you decided to do. I chose moon, because as a moon you are unique. Not stars—there are a lot of stars in the sky. And when you are yourself, you are unique—you are a super moon. I try to give energy and at the same time I try to tell stories through songs. I don’t want to repeat myself as all artists repeat always the same things. All I can say is that I give the maximum amount of positive vibes—as I do always—and sometimes sadness for people who need to release their sadness. There are some songs that are sad and there are some songs to dance to and songs to just keep good vibes around us with. I was true on what I did. I am really hoping that people can receive the real things that I put in.
AD: What wisdom would you offer to a musician starting out today?
ZM: Now it’s harder. Don’t use too much machines or use too much loop or things. Try to start with an instrument and yourself. Be simple; very simple. When an idea comes in the middle of the night, wake up and record it. ***