Friday, October 02, 2009
Staff Benda Bilili are a truly remarkable find - their debut album is possibly both the African and outsider music release of the year. Qualifications:
Outsider: this large group is comprised of homeless street kids and handicapped adults who live in a park. They not only feature homemade instruments, particularly a buzzy one-string invention made from wire and a tin can played brilliantly by one of the youngsters, but the disabled guys make their own wheelchairs out of bicycle tires and plastic lawn furniture. Their album was recorded live in the park using power bootlegged from a snack stand's electrical lines.
African: The Congo produced a seemingly endless parade of sound-alike soukous bands throughout the '80s and '90s. No predictable Kinsasha cliches from Staff Benda Bilili - they're all over the map, literally, from Cuban rhumba (long a Congolese influence) to American James Brown-type funk (one song finds them shouting "sex machine!") to the Carribean, e.g.: the highly energetic calypso/ska-inflected insta-classic posted here. But the junk instruments give everything a slightly alien sound, ensuring originality.
Unlike a lot of so-called "dance music," listening to this stuff make my legs uncontrollably twitch like a spastic (which, yes, sadly passes for dancing for me).
Staff Benda Bilili - Sala Mosala