Staff Benda Bilili get even better
New album, Bouger le monde
It took a film, a CD and some non-stop touring to establish Staff Benda Bilili on the international scene. Now the Kinshasa street musicians are back with the refreshingly optimistic Bouger le Monde, an album fuelled by their globetrotting adventures.
On 10 August, Staff Benda Bilili performed the last in a series of summer dates at the Ard’Afrique festival, an annual event that has managed to build a cultural, humanitarian bridge between a rural Ardèche town and Africa. The next day, the band set off for Brussels to fly to Kinshasa and enjoy a fortnight of well-earned rest with their families.
Since their first European concert at the Eurockéennes de Belfort in 2009, the group fronted by Ricky Likabu has hardly stayed put, playing their electric rumba live on each of the five continents. “We’ve played everywhere except the USA,” commented the leader of the band from the Democratic Republic of Congo. A gap they’re about to fill, since in October the group will set off on a coast-to-coast North American tour with a dozen dates taking in Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver and more.
Back on the old continent at the end of August, the musicians got down to work before the release of their second album, Bouger le Monde. On 6 September, they were at the Royal Albert Hall in London in the thick of the Paralympic Games – a fitting symbol given that the limelight-loving band includes some paraplegic musicians.
Studio sound work
“Our first album centred on the fight against polio, which made us what we are,” explained Ricky, who caught the disease when he was three. “But my head, our heads, still work properly.” The second collection, aimed at everyone, proves the point in the shape of the eight band members and the team that has accompanied them since they started out on their international adventure (producers Florent de la Tullaye, Renaud Barret and Vincent Kenis, Michel Winter of Mukalo Production on management, the Crammed Discs label, and the tour organizer Run Prod). The lyrics cover themes like love, marriage, unemployment, begging and violence.
Unlike their first opus, Bouger le Monde was recorded in a real studio instead of live (Très très fort had been recorded in just four days in Kinshasa’s city zoo). “Renapec Studio has hosted some of Zaire’s greatest music stars (Franco, Tabu Ley, Papa Wemba…)," said Guillaume Carpentier, who worked alongside Vincent Kenis during recording and oversees sound on their tours. "We did some preparatory work on the album. Although we kept the live aspect of the group playing together, we isolated the musicians so that we could polish their individual sounds. As a result, Bouger le Monde has a more urban, punchy feel,” he added. Other influences, like Congolese folklore rhythms, reggae, and borrowings from contemporary music – bolster the band’s musical palette. Early fans will even find some of the tracks they used to play on stage, like Kuluna-Gangs.
Staff Benda Bilili Bouger le monde (Crammed Discs) 2012
Live concerts on 8 September in Guyancourt, 26 September in Dijon and 29 September at the Casino de Paris, and on tour in France, Europe and North America.
Staff Benda Bilili’s official website