An example of African street music at its finest
Johnny Lais 2009-03-20
The explosive debut album from Staff Benda Bilili is perhaps an example of African street music at its finest. The sound is a curious mix of Afro- Rumba, Latin Rhythms and rich vocal harmonies. Each track is diverse, vibrant and wholly unique yet the album retains a uniformity of sound and style that is both interesting and infectious.
Staff Benda Bilili hail from the streets of Kinshasa. A group of disabled musicians form the core of the band. Backed by a younger, acoustic rhythm section and a hand made, electric one string lute called the Satonge. The sound of which is slightly comedic at points yet never over bearing.
Whilst their sound is unlike any thing else, there is a familiar rough authenticity in the rhythm and lyrics, comparable in style at points to Buena Vista Social club and at others Fela Kuti. The age and experience of the older musicians is prevalent throughout, evident in the steadiness and timing that gives the music so much of its character.
The craftsmanship of this album is remarkable. The diversity of styles is a testament to the musicianship to the group. From the Afro-Cuban Polio to the hard-edged African beats of Avramandole. The production itself was recorded outside, giving the album the feel of a live session.
Staff Benda Bilili roughly translates as 'Look Beyond Appearances'. Their music is a testament to that, in its ability to be so many things at the same time. This is a remarkable debut that will no doubt earn Staff Benda Bilili much deserved attention and respect.