Sunday, 8 February 2009

Staff Benda Bilili

I recently came across a remarkable Congolese band called Staff Benda Bilili. They are street musicians who live in and around the Zoo in Kinshasa, not far from where Christian Aid’s offices are. Most of the bands are paraplegics due to polio, but they have also taken in street kids like Roger Landu, who plays an electric lute he made himself using a tin can. You can see it in action in this video of their interpretation of James Brown’s ‘Sex Machine’.

Although their first album will not be released until either later this month or March, the band have been together for a number of years and indeed are involved in a dispute with MONUC after their song ‘Let’s Go and Vote’ was used on radio and TV in the run-up to the 2006 elections to encourage voter registration and turnout. Preview tracks from their album are already up on their Myspace.

This song, recorded live in the grounds of the Zoo, encourages mothers to vaccinate their children against polio: