Friday, March 18, 2011

Benda Bilili

Benda Bilili is a documentary by Renaud Barret and Fiorent de la Tullaye that follows the rise of Staff Benda Bilili, a band made up of disabled musicians and street children from Kinshasa, Congo. It is an inspiring story, the band start by meeting up in Kinshasa Zoo (which looks a depressing place for the animals, but is the quietest space for the band to practice). Even though for a long time it has seemed that their band (and lives) were going nowhere, all the musicians are incredibly optimistic. The film makers manage to negotiate them some time in a recording studio and from there they move onto an album and appearances at World Music Festivals across Europe.

The lyrics of the songs come straight from the musicians lives, and cover topics like polio, education and life on the streets. The music is brilliant, typical central African rhythms, infectiously danceable, with often unique elements thrown in. The most impressive of these is the instrument played by Roger Landu, one of the street children in the band. It's made from an empty tin, a bent piece of wood and a wire, and he plays the most wonderful tunes on it. As the film progresses, we see a variety of customised versions of this instrument, all decorated beautifully for the various concerts the band gives.

You can find out more and listen to the band on their website here.

Benda Bilili is showing at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh until 24 March.

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