Staff Benda Bilili Très Très Fort

Staff Benda Bilili Très Très Fort

Most of Kinshasa's Staff Benda Bilili are street handicapés on heavy-duty custom tricycles who frequent the local zoological gardens, where the project began. Staff's beloved Congolese/Afro-Cuban rhythmic roots guide the high-powered end of Très Très Fort (notably standout "Moziki"), but their resilience defies categorization. Distinct in the sound is Roger Landu's satonge, a single-string electric lute he fashioned from a paint can, a bent stick and a wire, the 17-year-old virtuoso producing solos using Theremin-like frequencies in exquisite phrases. Unmistakeably African exaltations, the chanting parts layer voices over reggae guitar, percussion and the whine of the satonge ("Sala Mosala"), while lulling French ("Marguerite"), soft guitars ("Polio") and a slower, longing Afro-waltz ("Sala Keba") feed calmer appetites. Funk and African blues punctuated with hand drum rolls and rippling guitar bring up "Tonkara" and "Staff Benda Bilili," which throbs with entrancing strings, deep chants and thumping drums. This triumphant debut celebrates new levels of innovation against adversity from the already astonishing Congotronics scene. (Crammed)