Staff Benda Bilili

Staff Benda Bilili


Staff Benda Bilili are a group of street musicians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They used to live around the grounds of the zoo in the country's capital city, Kinshasa, and play music which is rooted in rumba, with elements of old-school rhythm 'n' blues and reggae. The core of the band consists of four senior singers/guitarists, who are paraplegic (they had poliomyelitis when they were young) and move around in spectacularly customized tricycles. They are backed by a younger rhythm section consisting of abandoned street children who were taken under the protection of the older members of the band. The soloist is an 18 year-old boy (2009) who plays guitar-like solos on an electrified one-stringed lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can. The group's name translates roughly from Lingala as "look beyond appearances".

Staff Benda Bilili have earned the 2009 Artist Award at Womex (World Music Expo).

Staff Benda Bilili have sought to raise awareness about crimes against humanity in Democratic Republic of the Congo, contributing to the Enough Project and Downtown Records' Raise Hope for Congo compilation.

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Links & Information

BBC Reviews

  1. Review of Bouger Le Monde!

    Bouger Le Monde! 2012

    Reviewed by Paul Clarke
    As pure a life-affirming rush as the best pop music in any language.
  2. Review of Tres Tres Fort

    Tres Tres Fort 2009

    Reviewed by Johnny Lais
    An example of African street music at its finest
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