Staff Benda Bilili -- Bouger Le Monde!
Staff Benda Bilili - Bouger Le Monde!
Initially unleashed on the world as part of Belgian label Crammed Discs Congotronics series, the success of Staff Benda Bilili's debut album Tres Tres Fort has ensured that the band has a buzz all of it's own, outside of it's Kinshasa scene.
When the critics praise for fellow label-mates and countrymen Konono No 1 reached fever pitch, it seemed as if they would eclipse all other comers in the Congotronics series.
However Staff Benda Bilili have, through relentless global touring, ratcheted up their international hype with Britain's Daily Telegraph declaring them, "the most talked about band of the year" and the Financial Times calling them, " the most exciting band to emerge from Africa in years".
A group of street musicians who used to live and play around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa, this band makes music that will have dance floors heaving and draws heavily on the Congo's rich rhumba heritage.
The band is built around four paraplegic singer/guitarists and a 'hype man' on crutches who whips the crowd into a frenzy.
The rhythm section is all acoustic; while seventeen-year-old Roger Landu delivers the solos on a one-string electric lute built out of a tin can.
Landu's solos are mind-blowing and offer up many of Bouger Le Monde's highlights.
Move the world
No surprise then, that Benda Bilili means, "look beyond appearances" or if literally translated, "put forward what is hidden".
Discovered by two French filmmakers in 2005 that were shooting films about Kinshasa's street life, the band was introduced to Crammed Discs in-house producer Vincent Kenis and the result was Tres Tres Fort, recorded in the grounds of Kinshasa Zoo and then mixed in Brussels.
Since 2009 Staff have been touring extensively in Europe, Japan and Australia, playing many of the largest festivals including Glastonbury, WOMAD, Roskilde among numerous others, notching up more than 350 shows.
The band is currently touring Europe and will be heading to America later this year.
Now in 2012 we get there second offering, which is to be honest, even better than their debut.
Bouger Le Monde is a riveting album from first second to last, a mesmerising blending of rock riffs and rhumba rhythm, with great percussion and stinging solos.
The band is heavier, rockier and more fun, than they were on their 2009 debut and the additional drummer, percussionist and guitarist who have joined the band have filled the sound out.
Bouger Le Monde, which means "move the world" or "make the world shake" was produced by Kenis, but this time not in the Kinshasa Zoo, but in the old Renapec studio, where legendary rhumba stars such as Franco, Tabu Ley Rochereau and Papa Wemba recorded some of their famous works.
It seems redundant to pick out highlights from an album with such consistent quality but the rocking Bilanga (The Field) and more laid back Apandjokwetu (This Is Our Place) are early favourites, while Landu's soloing on Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don't Leave Me) needs to be heard to be believed.
Ultimately the truth about Bouger Le Monde is that it is a real treat from start to finish and every African-music-lovinglistener should own this album.
For more in-depth album reviews, see our special report..