OK, bear with me, because things are going to start off a little strange this Friday afternoon and evening, but I think you’re going to like it. The group we’re going to feature to get this weekend started is called Staff Benda Bilili.
Here’s how Wikipedia tells their story:
Staff Benda Bilili are a group of street musicians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They used to live around the grounds of the zoo in the country’s capital city, Kinshasa, and play music which is rooted in rumba, with elements of old-school rhythm ‘n’ blues and reggae. The core of the band consists of four senior singers/guitarists, who are paraplegic (they had poliomyelitis when they were young) and move around in spectacularly customized tricycles. They are backed by a younger rhythm section consisting of abandoned street children who were taken under the protection of the older members of the band. The soloist is an 18 year-old boy (2009) who plays guitar-like solos on an electrified one-stringed lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can. The group’s name translates roughly from Lingala as “look beyond appearances.”
And this is what they sound like:
Sometimes you look around the world and you think that as a species, we can be pretty screwed up. And at other times, you see something like these guys and you think we might be OK after all.
– Jay Bookman