Staff Benda Bilili hail from the streets of Kinshasa. A group of disabled musicians form the core of the band. Backed by a younger, acoustic rhythm section and a hand made, electric one string lute called the Satonge. The sound of which is slightly comedic at points yet never over bearing.
Whilst their sound is unlike any thing else, there is a familiar rough authenticity in the rhythm and lyrics, comparable in style at points to Buena Vista Social club and at others Fela Kuti. The age and experience of the older musicians is prevalent throughout, evident in the steadiness and timing that gives the music so much of its character.
The craftsmanship of this album is remarkable. The diversity of styles is a testament to the musicianship to the group. From the Afro-Cuban Polio to the hard-edged African beats of Avramandole. The production itself was recorded outside, giving the album the feel of a live session.
Staff Benda Bilili roughly translates as 'Look Beyond Appearances'. Their music is a testament to that, in its ability to be so many things at the same time. This is a remarkable debut that will no doubt earn Staff Benda Bilili much deserved attention and respect. --Johnny Lais
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-- Buzz, (Noel Gardner), March 2009
(4 stars) Like no African group you've come across...the slower pieces are lent poignancy by the engaging blend of voices. -- The Independent, (Andy Gill), March 20, 2009
(4 stars) The funkier interludes exude irresistible physicality, whilst a cluster of lovelorn laments lacerate the heartstrings. -- The Times, (Pete Paphides), March 21, 2009
(4 stars) The funkiest, grittiest sound yet out of Congo...one album you'll want to tell all your friends about. -- MOJO, (David Hutcheon), June 2009
(5 stars) A gem - dreamy, joyful and full of delicious melodies. Album of the year - signed, sealed and delivered. -- Songlines, (Mark Ellingham), April/May 2009
(5 stars) One of the most extraordinary albums of the year...gloriously uplifting...their songs are lyrical, thoughtful, remarkably cheerful and occasionally startling. -- The Guardian, (Robin Denselow), March 20, 2009
(5 stars) The music is fantastic...creativity and skill in adverse circumstances...This is an essential purchase. -- Evening Standard, (Simon Broughton), March 20, 2009
An instant classic...life-affirming...a record with global appeal. -- Telegraph, (Gervase de Wilde), April 2, 2009
It's a haunting album, extended by four well-judged film clips; the live performance of "Polio" has pathos and fortitude. -- The Observer, (Neil Spencer), March 22, 2009
There's a wonderful warmth and an often ramshackle jollity to proceedings...beyond their inspirational story lies a CD with its own magic. -- The Observer Music Monthly, (Caspar Llewellyn Smith), March 15, 2009