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Congo Kinshasa | World
Culture - Arts

Congo's Staff Benda Bilili on big tour

Congolese band Staff Benda Bilili

© Crammed Discs/afrol News
afrol News, 28 June
- The heart-warming Kinshasa street musicians group Staff Benda Bilili is starting a breath taking summer tour, visiting 56 stages and festivals in Europe, Japan and Canada.

In 2009, Staff Benda Bilili launched its Congolese rumba-style album 'Très Très Fort', which lifted the group of disabled musicians from an unrecognised Kinshasa street band to a group celebrated for its innovative and animating rhythms by one Western TV station after the other.

This year, after good CD sales and already becoming an important name in the "World music" scene, Staff Benda Bilili is setting out to meet its new world-wide fan-ship live.

The Congolese band is now starting one of this (northern) summer's more breathtaking tours, with 56 performances on three continents. The band is making a grand tour of Europe, including a shorter stay in Canada in the first half of July, thus ending the tour with a longer stay in Japan in September-October.

Staff Benda Bilili, after their massive publicity last year, prove to be a popular festival guest, invited to several of the world's most famous outdoor music events. Tomorrow, the band will play at the Glastonbury Festival, considered one of Britain's and Europe's major rock festivals.

On 2 July, the band is on the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, seen by many as the best outdoor music event in Europe. The grand Europe tour also includes festival appearances in France, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland.

And the Congolese artists, asking for "celebration not pity", promise to animate festival and concert audiences. Already, the band's mesmerising rumba-rooted grooves, overlaid with vibrant vocals and extraordinary tin-can guitar solos, have been dazzling audiences and media the world over, both on record and on stage.

Led by Ricky Likabu, four paraplegic singers and guitarists form the core of the band, assisted by a "hype man" on crutches who whips the crowd into a frenzy, and backed by an all-acoustic rhythm section pounding out tight grooves.

Then, on top of everything, are those inimitable and infectious solos performed by teenage prodigy Roger Landu on a one-string electric lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can.

While already on their grand world tour, Staff Benda Bilili are also taking part in the "Kick Polio Out Of Africa" campaign, which Rotary International organised around the World Cup.

The latest development in the band's success story is that a full-length film devoted to their life so far was welcomed with a standing ovation on the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival. Entitled "Benda Bilili" and directed by Barret/de la Tullaye, the film shows the band's journey from the sidewalks of Kinshasa to the stages of large European concert halls and festivals.

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