Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/24 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/24 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/24 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/24 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/24 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/24 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/24 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/24 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/24 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/24 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 07/23 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/22 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 07/23 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/22 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/23 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/23 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 07/23 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 07/22 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 07/23 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/23 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 07/23 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.

Staff Benda Bilili rumba the world

Staff Benda Bilili rumba the world
 
Christophe MacPherson/Crammed Discs

Congolese band Staff Benda Bililli talks to RFI about going from the streets to Kinshasa to shaking up the world with their infectious brand of rumba.

Their story is one of the most remarkable on the world music scene in recent years.

A handful of musicians living on the streets of Kinshasa, many of them victims of polio, start playing music in the grounds of the city’s zoo.

By September 2012 they bring out their second much awaited and highly-acclaimed album Bouger le monde (Make the world move) and are touring the USA.

Staff Benda Bilili means "look beyond appearances" in Lingala. And indeed the band has always wanted to be appreciated for its music, not because several of its members are in wheelchairs.

But there’s no denying that while their disability may have touched western audiences, it brought them no sympathy vote in their native RDC.

Ricky Likabu , the band’s co-founder, himself a paraplegic, remembers those years on the streets with his kids.

"I saw you couldn’t do much if you’re physically disabled in my country but you could put your head to work. I had to use my brain, so I called upon my friends to start making music together.”

Attempts to play music alongside non-disabled musicians in Kinshasha hit a wall.

"They said to me "you’re disabled, you can’t dance like the others and you often arrive late, we can’t recruit disabled people.” I took that badly.”

But the band weren’t deterred.

In 2005, their energy, enthusiasm and highly original sound caught the attention of Belgian record producer, Vincent Kenis, a specialist in Congolese music.

He helped the band record their debut album Tres Tres Fort (Very Very Strong) in 2009. It became a cult hit especially in the UK, France and US.

The band also got a big boost when featured in documentary film Jupiter’s Dance by Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye. In 2009 they made an award-winning feature length documentary on the band called Benda Bilili!

After successful tours in Europe, Japan and Australia, the band's just released their second album Bouger le monde.

Recorded in a studio in Kinshasa, again by Francis Kenis, fears that the band might have been over-polished are unwarranted.

The album has the high-quality sound you’d expect from a studio recording, but keeps the hallmark energetic mix of rumba, jazz and funk that’s made the band so popular in the west.

Band member Montana Kinunu says the album is strong in more ways than one.

"We’re going to move the world. That’s the message on this second album. And it’s a strong one. Rhythmically, the album is strong too. These are the new sounds of the world.”

Ricky Likabu says these sounds are enriched by RDC’s many dialects.

“We’ve got at least 450 dialects back home, and that pushes me to do research and try and find new sounds. Our country’s very rich culturally, that’s what I want to show.”

Touring the US, the band is currently bringing those sounds to American ears.

And would like to build up more of a fan base on the African continent.

So far, they’ve played just one concert - in Morocco. Tanzania, bless them, have also shown an interest.

>>Staff Benda Bilili's official website


Related

  • World music matters

    François Marry and the Atlas Mountains

    Learn more

  • World music matters

    Syrian musician Samih Choukeir's songs of protest

    Learn more

  • World music matters

    Griot meets jazz on the Paris metro

    Learn more

  • World music matters

    Raphaël Didjaman, the French didgeridoo master

    Learn more

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. ...
  5. next >
  6. last >
Features
 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.