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The ensemble's name - Staff Benda Bilili - can be roughly translated to mean "look beyond appearances," and it absolutely holds true--the group's music holds no indications that it was made by cripples and street urchins. The music is of an infectious nature; there is some background percussion, but the bulk of it is formed by the four senior guitar players and singers, while the kids play background instruments. Notable, too, is the solo instrument: a single string lute-like instrument crafted out of a tin can, a guitar string, and a thin piece of wood that forms its neck.
Although the lyrics are not in English, and despite the upbeat rhythm of most of the songs, it is not difficult to hear the hardship and pain in the voices of the singers. While there are no reliable translations of all the songs available, their songs have addressed concepts such as the poverty in the country and the widespread disease, and they have also written a very successful song to encourage people to vote in the country's 2006 election.
The music itself is upbeat and vivid; it was recorded in a zoo around which its members live, so background crickets and environmental noises make their way into the songs, which fosters a sense of proximity that makes the music even greater.Read more ›
Recorded out in the open, mainly in the zoological garden in Kinshasa using 12 microphones, a laptop and a 100m mains cable stealing electricity from a deserted bar this album captures the sound of Staff Benda Bilili on their home turf.
Comprising of 4 senior singer/guitarists perched on their customised tricycles, a younger rhythm section and 17 year old Roger who uses a unique one stringed electric lute he made himself using a length of electrical wire attached to a small wooden bow and then inserted in a metal dried milk can which he calls a Satonge, this album is raw yet oozes soul, positivity and vibrancy.
`Je T'Aime', my personal favourite, takes it's cue from James Brown with it's infectious groove, `sex machine' refrain, Roger's Hendrix like riffing and a soul vocal that makes me want to cry and dance simultaneously.
`Polio' is a slow heartfelt, yet amazingly unbitter, appeal to the listening public recommending vaccination against poliomyelitis and coming from a band, half of whom have lost the use of their legs because of the disease, it's a message that carries some serious weight.
As with much Rumba music you are never far away from the sound of Cuba which the Congolese musicians of the 50's and 60's reappropriated and this is most evident on the laid back `Sala Keba' as is a love of reggae on the skanking `Sala Mosala'.
Mostly the album consists of up-tempo dance numbers designed to make you shake it and that's what I suggest you do whilst giving thanks that you are able to.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great introduction to Dickerson....still the most original & important vibist since Bags.Published 23 months ago by Malcolm
Sure, they lack polish. What would you expect from homeless guys??? But they have GREAT enthusiasm, and that counts BIG in my book. This is my favorite album from that year.Published on July 16, 2014 by Curious Mark
Impressive and innovative music
Fantastic and very cheerful music -
I recommend the CD - listen to the CD before your neighbor
Great CD - plus, buying the CD as opposed to the mp3 downloads, you get a couple of bonus videos.Published on January 27, 2010 by jdoh