23 May 2009

Rolling in Kinshasha

Yes, it sounds like a movie script. A group of paraplegic street musicians who play near the zoo in Kinshasa, Congo, catch the ear of well-placed westerners (including Damon Albarn, members of Massive Attack, and filmmakers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye. The latter have been documenting the group (whose name roughly translates to "look beyond appearances") since 2005.

Now Staff Benda Bilili's sparkling debut album Tres Tres Fort has been released, produced by none other than Crammed's Vincent Kenis (who also brought us Konono No. 1 and Kasai Allstars). If you're familiar with those outings, you won't be surprised to learn about the group's homemade instruments (many solos are played on a one-stringed tin-can lute/guitar). The group's story is more unusual than its music, which isn't too far from the Afro-Cuban blend of many other Congolese groups. But their unique story, instruments, and obstacles to success make this an album well worth checking out. Marvel at their resilience, read how their lyrics influenced the last Congolese election, and move to the languorous rumba-funk grooves.

More Staff Benda Bilili:
film trailer
buy CD
website
myspace (with song samples)
youtube
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