Staff Benda Bilili — Bouger le Monde
Review by Tom Goulding
Within seven years Staff Benda Bilili, an inspiring group of paraplegic street musicians, have gone from recording in an abandoned zoo to performing at the BBC Proms. Success stories don’t come much more unlikely than this.
Hailing from the notorious streets of Kinshasa, an urban jungle in the heart of the Congo, they were spotted by a documentary filmmaker and promptly whisked to stardom. When they unleashed their debut album Très Très Fort in 2009, they were acclaimed as innovative and intoxicating.
After touring for three years, their follow-up album Bouger le Monde (Make the World Shake) begins with tremendous energy – an exciting blend of whining guitar, percussive rhythms and uplifting vocals, in both French and Congolese.
With several members now contributing to the lead vocals, this not only adds to the frantic pace of the music, but also harks back to its origins – a sound firmly rooted in African rumba. Staff Benda Bilili are also dabbling in other genres, with the extensive use of electric guitar showing tentative steps into the world of rock.
Differing from the gentler tone of their debut album, Bouger le Monde is an upbeat summer soundtrack, which is all the more impressive when you consider the band’s roots. The members have gone from sleeping rough to building schools, and although they may experience their own separate disabilities, by uniting through music they promote a message of change, positivity and community.