Kinshasa’s Staff Benda Bilili set out to be ‘the best handicapped band in Africa’. I was lucky enough to catch their show last summer, and they were most definitely one of the most exhilarating live bands I’d seen in London, handicapped or otherwise. Here is what I wrote at the time:
‘In the sweaty cavern of the Hackney Empire, they worked their audience into a frenzy with their take on Congolese rumba and funk. Wearing a glittery fedora and clutching what looked like an electrified baked-bean tin, 19-year-old singer and future band-leader Roger Landu started off nervously, but soon came into his own, with extraordinary solos on both vocals and the tin, an instrument called the ‘satonge’ which he invented himself. Across the stage, his senior band mates were completely at home, navigating their intricate riffs with ease, belting out beautifully harmonised call-and-response vocals and throwing themselves – at times quite literally – into the performance.’
Staff Benda Bilili play the Union Chapel at a sold-out Gala Event this Friday night, in celebration of their new film, which is in cinemas from March 18th, and screening at several London venues including the Cine Lumière, the Ritzy, Greenwich Picturehouse, and the Odeon in Covent Garden. Not to be missed.