February 22, 2000
In the 21st Century world of Internet and endless new music to choose from, there is one independent band shining throughout the Southeast that is worth checking out. King Konga, a relatively local band from Hattiesburg, MS, makes a strong statement with their latest album HALO. The accessible hooks and singable melodies of such local popular radio singles as "Dancing Girls" and the title track "Halo, exemplify the tight, cohesive sound King Konga has accomplished. The band has succeeded at formulating their own musical sound, a semi-funky, percussion-oriented rock that features strong lyrics and the raspy, Peter Gabriel-like voice of lead singer and songwriter, Dan Hannon. The record even offers a taste of a highly energetic live Konga performance with the album's last track, "Say Mercy," recorded at the House of Blues in New Orleans early last year. King Konga plays Friday, February 25 at Monsoon's in downtown Mobile.
A MA ZONE,
Zap Mama (Luaka Bop Records), 1999
Every once in a while you come across something truly different. Not the mass marketed mush that the media tells us is unique, but something that turns your head and inspires your soul. A MA ZONE by Zap Mama does that from the very first track. Started as an all- female a cappella group in Belgium, Zap Mama is a musical troupe that defies definition. A blend of African, European and American sounds, Zap Mama resists attempts to label its distinctive sound.
Marie Daule founded Zap Mama and she has been the driving force behind the band. Marie was born of a Belgian father and Zairian mother in Zaire. During the civil war that brutalized the people of what is now Congo, her father was killed. Her mother escaped to the safety of a tribe of pygmies with her three children. It was here in the forest that Marie was born and lived until her family immigrated to Belgium. And years later it would be in these same forests that Zap Mama went from being an a cappella girl group to a force in world music. “Discovered” and signed by David Byrne to his Luaka Bop record label, Zap Mama became an international hit and had the Billboard World Music Album of 1993.
Since that time Zap Mama has undergone a metamorphosis culminating in A MA ZONE. In this newest album, Marie Daule blends the tribal “world sound” with hip-hop. And in an even more daring stroke she finishes what she flirted with in her album SEVEN by adding a full backup group. Although very different from her other albums, A MA ZONE layers both voice and music without losing the soul of her earlier recordings. She also shifts the focus of her lyrics away from politics to the shortcomings of modern society. Long time fans may be unhappy with the changes in musical direction as well as personnel, but what emerges is a sound in itself unique. Americans will find this album more accessible and less tribal but still very inspirational.
Marie says she chose the name A MA ZONE because it is not only “the female warrior” but also literally “in my zone,” a phrase that means feeling good about yourself. Daule has made an album that speaks to the heart of a society forced to run ever faster. She has created a place that you can go to escape the rat race. So unplug your cell-phone, turn off your pager, kick of your shoes and lay your head in the lap of Zap Mama and let A MA ZONE free your soul.
-- Thomi Sharpe
Kittie (Artemus Records), 1999
Tired of Britney Spears and her ilk? Looking for the dark side of the bubble-gum pink sappy sweet ear candy being dished out by prepubescent babes who ought to be concentrating on passing Drivers Ed and not watching their newest song sail up the charts? Kittie may be the antidote you are looking for.
Hailing from Canada and proud to say they have never been Mousketeers, these girls rock harder than anything I’ve heard in a good long while. One gets the feeling Kittie could take on anyone from Britney Spears to Marilyn Manson, steal their lipstick and lunch money and kick their combined asses. Who knew those overtly sexual, slightly pale girls lurking in the back of the school cafeteria had so much talent?
With titles like “Spit,” “Choke,” “Do you think I’m a whore?” and “Get Off (you can eat a dick),” Kittie is sure to start making parents nervous. But despite these intentionally provocative titles, the lyrics that that follow often fall to the level of high school angst poetry best kept in a hallway locker. What stands out about Kittie is the maturity of the music itself. The drums are sharp, the guitars are cutting and the production is the equal of bands with much more experience. Calling their music Glam-Goth Metal-Glitter allows them to cut and paste from bands like Nine-Inch Nails and Korn and make music which, if not altogether original, is at least always interesting. This mix should allow them plenty of room to grow into their own style over time. These girls are good and heavy. One waits in wonder to see if Kittie will grow lyrically to match their sonic sophistication.
-- Jay Sharpe
SPiV (Pop Sweatshop), 1999.
The Definition of SPiV? It’s British slang for someone who uses their wits to avoid a real job. The quartet led by brothers Chris and Jeremy Barber have found their avocation in music. How else could you describe “Yeah,” a song with just one word in the verse, chorus and title? Their label, based in Olympia, Washington, describes the band as “Brit Pop Voodoo” with a mix of white soul and punk. Jeremy Barber’s violin draws comparison to Camper Van Beethoven, but it’s Chris Barber’s guitar work that defines the band. The Barber brothers resume reads like a Who’s Who of west coast music with names like Left Over Salmon, Ginger Baker of Cream, and The Goo Goo Dolls as acts they’ve shared the stage with. The music is happy and catchy, notably “Dizzy Tizzy” which has been receiving airplay among the West coast. Chris Barber’s humor is present throughout, especially in the two songs (?) that clock in under one minute. The SPiV touring unit is different from the rhythm section that recorded the album, but plans have been made to record a second album. Look for the Barber brothers to enjoy a long career.
-- A.J. Hidell, Jr.