Samstag, 28. August 2010

Staff Benda Bilili - Live In Berlin - A Concert Review

"We're all handicapped people, ain't we?" - Staff Benda Bilili in Berlin
The couple in front of me danced with an enormous condition through the whole concert in their style of fifties rock'n'roll. Another couple on the left-hand seemed to be captured in an erotic dream, moved ecstatical and embraced. The woman on the right became grief-stricken as she stepped during her meditative interpretation of the music on the bag of my friend. And at the place in front of the stage a group of wheelchair user had the best sight to the musicians on the stage.

In a short introduction we were told, that the band Staff Benda Bilili is now playing their first concert in this formation and their first concert in Berlin. The group is located in Kinshasa, the dome capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country with a long time of different wars. Due to polio, the majority of the members of the band are handicapped and appear in wheelchairs or on crutches. In Lingala, the official language of the DR Congo, "Benda Bilili" means "look beyond appereance".

In the year 2004 two young french filmmakers met them and made a film of the band and their history, which was extreme successful at this year's Cannes Film Festival. In Germany the film will be premiered at the Hofer Filmtage end of Octobre 2010. The both filmmaker Renaud Barret and Florent de La Tullaye also brought Staff Benda Bilili together with the record label Crammed Discs, which published their album "Trés Trés Fort" in the year 2009. Now in June, they played at Glastonbury and till autumn they will tour in Europe and go to Japan.

During the concert the music, a mixture of funk, rumba and reggae, african beats and psychedelic, changed song by song their melody focus. While swinging my hips to the groove, I took a look at the band. Today it was a formation with seven members, in Cannes they have been nine. The guitarist who is setting the tone with his electric guitar, is in a wheelchair. Kabose Kabamba, one of the singers, is dancing with his crutches. The one in the front wheelchair is the founder and leader of the band, Ricky Likabu. The bassist Paulin Kiara-Maigi played on an acoustic bass guitar, which filled the space with a tight sound. Cubain Kabeya, the drummer, uses instead of a highhead a silver paper, which looks like a mixture of a tin and fine silver. Also uncommon for my eyes was the instrument which played the youngest musician of the band, Roger Landu. It looked like a mini harp, almost the size of a sheet of paper, but instead of a constant bow it had on one side a foursquare tin as sound box, which is amplified - a great sound came out which brought my friend to look for a synthesizer. This instrument is called satonge.

During all this looking, listening and dancing I asked myself, am I just listening to "Volksmusik", or what are the foundations of this music? Staff Benda Bilili once described their music as a kind of newspaper for Kinshasa. This is what a lot of styles of music come from, telling stories of an area and of people, who don't have a lobby. But always when the word "Volksmusik" comes in my mind I have to think of the conservative European style and my hips refreeze.

Berlin, 18th of August 2010
Jenny Bauer

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