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Très très fort

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Album Review

It's safe to say there's never been a group quite like Staff Benda Bilili. Most of the bandmembers are polio victims confined to customized tricycles, except for the youngest, 17-year-old Roger Landu, who plays a one-string lute he made himself. Recorded in the Kinshasa zoo, where the members spend most of their time, using electricity stolen from another building, this is a disc filled with ambient noise — and some wonderful music. Much of it, unsurprisingly, is Congolese rhumba, as on "Moto Moindo." The four singer/guitarists harmonize liltingly, but the real instrumental star is Landu, who flicks out riffs and solos on his instrument like a virtuoso. The band does mix up the sound, offering some light funk on the track named after themselves and on "Je T'Aime," and some reggae inflections on "Sala Mosala." There's a very positive attitude throughout the songs: these guys might be handicapped, but it's not going to stop them. The musicians are remarkable, the guerrilla recording just about perfect. But the real gift here is the music.

Customer Reviews

Very Infectious...

Quintessential Congo- From a group of musicians (all whom are in wheelchairs). Congolese R&B layered upon a rumba foundation. At first listening, you might think this is some vintage record that was found and re-released. But it's not. Instead it's an almost instant classic. It's such a unique album that perfectly captures that amazing "Congo sound". The songs draw you in slowly at first, eventually grabbing a hold of you. It's like fetisher (witch doctor) who puts you in a trance...After several listening sessions, this record will take it's place next to Fela Kuti, Le Rail Band, Youssou N'Dour, Amadou & Miriam, and Orchestra Baobab.

Don't censor my music!

Don't censor my music!

Rare Birds cool songs

Check out the tunes Sala Mosala for a reggae like ride or Je t'aime for a progressive blues sound. Sala Keba offers a measured waltz beat that features the one stringed maestro. The homemade instrument has an unusual tone but it fits. Moto Moindo has the latin sound captured perfectly. Moziki is a classic Soukous sound with the spot on guitar solo that matches the tone of the one stringed instrument. Can't wait to hear some more, but the pictures are amazing. Hit You-tube for some footage of the band.


Formed: Kinshasa, Congo

Genre: World

Years Active: '00s

Staff Benda Bilili is a group of Congolese street musicians who play a fusion of rumba, reggae, and vintage R&B. Formed by Ricky Likabu and Coco Ngambali, the band consists of four middle-aged paraplegics, all of whom were confined to wheelchairs after suffering polio as children, as well as several younger members. Roger Landu, who joined the group as a teenager, acts as a lead guitarist of sorts, playing instrumental solos on a one-string electric he built out of a tin can. The other younger members...
Full Bio
Très très fort, Staff Benda Bilili
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Customer Ratings