The chronicle of a lonely do-gooder family doctor who survived.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Staff Benda Bilili

Well, I'm at home still waiting for the Babu, but it gives me a moment to write about my latest musical obsession. With Konono No.1's Congotronics in 2004 and Jupiter's Dance in 2006 it seems like the most interesting music I've heard in recent years is being made in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. But far and away the most astonishing of the bunch is made by a group of polio-stricken paraplegics and abandoned street kids living on the grounds of the Kinshasa zoo who call themselves Staff Benda Bilili.

This clip comes from Jupiter's Dance:


In 2006, the United Nations Development Programme helped them produce a song called "Let's Go and Vote" which became wildly popular in the run up to the Congolese elections and was reportedly responsible for a 70% increase in voter turnout. The track became one of the most recognizably popular songs in the history of central Africa. For all this, the musicians were paid about $50 each.

Well they finally have a real album out on Crammed Records and it is fantastically good. From the record company's website:

The band's mesmerising rumba-rooted grooves, overlaid with vibrant vocals, remind you at times of Cuban nonchalance, at other times of the Godfather of Soul himself. You can hear echoes of old-school rhythm and blues, then reggae, then no-holds barred funk...

The songs were recorded out in the open, mainly in the zoological garden near centre ville, using a dozen microphones, a MacBook laptop and a 100m mains cable fraudulously connected to a deserted refreshment bar nearby.

The album is available on both iTunes and Amazon and I hope it brings them all the success they deserve.

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