Saturday, April 18, 2009

Album Review: Staff Benda Bilili-Tres Tres Fort

My favorite record label in the world, Crammed Discs, has introduced another world class talent to the international music scene from the Congo. Staff Benda Bilili are a truly unique ensemble. Composed of a group of paraplegic street musicians who live around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa, Congo, they achieve tight harmonies and rhythmic melodies that convey a melancholy nonchalance. Their voices convey a storied, unique identity.

At times they're similar to Cuban son, other times they're more like Jorge Ben. They display a lot of versatility on their latest release, Tres Tres Fort. Their title doesn't false advertise. They are extremely powerful. Four senior singer/guitarists sitting on tricycles, occasionally dancing on the floor of the stage, arms raised in joyful supplication, are the core of the band, backed by a younger, all-acoustic rhythm section pounding out tight beats. Over the top of this are weird, infectious guitar-like solos performed by a 17 year-old prodigy on a one-string electric lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can. They are definitely unique.

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