Though it's clearly a misguided attempt to cross-market one of the most original world-music acts of the '90s, the new disc isn't bad. But it lacks the spiritual heft of the band's less pop-obsessed earlier works Adventures in Afropea 1 (a gorgeous a cappella affair) and Sabsylma (a cappella and voice/ percussion explorations). The real disappointment of A Ma Zone (and Seven) is that neither is a fair representation of Zap Mama's electrifying live show. At the group's last Bay Area performance it thrilled a packed Fillmore with otherworldly four-part harmonies -- front and center -- and what seemed less a put-on exoticism, via the Badu school of R&B, and more an authentic Afro-European sensuality.
Zap Mama performs on Sunday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Tickets are $18-30; call (510) 642-9988.