Music- Staff Benda Bilili from Congo

Music- Staff Benda Bilili from Congo
Benda Bilili Res Tres Fort
Introduction If disability is part of human life is it reflected in music both with musicians and the content of songs and operas?
Make a list of disabled musicians from the class
Band Staff Benda Bilili – look beyond appearances Kinshasa , Congo- all are disabled and about to start a UK tour.

A group of Congolese musicians is using music to overcome obstacles – both economic and social – that come with being disabled in a poor country. Called Staff Benda Bilili, they are on course to be a global sensation and are looking forward to their first European tour. A remarkable achievement for anyone from a war-torn country, let alone for musicians who live as ambulant impaired in the slums of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. Their CD Très Très Fort,has won them the Womex this year. In Kinshasa(7.5 million) run down in recent conflict the band has worked with sheges, the street kids (many of them former child soldiers, numbering perhaps 40,000).
Centre d’handicapés, where Ricky usually lives with his first wife Chantal (his second lives in the district of Kintambo) and their children, Justin, aged 13, Michel, nine, and seven-year- old Sharufa. They have been there in a state of semi-permanence for 12 years. “Well, we used to be over by the river, in Kingabwa,” he explains, “but there was a flood. The government moved us here. We’re refugees.” They share their pitiably cramped living quarters with 40 other families – perhaps 200 people. The breezeblock walls of the building are open at the top to the elements and a piece of ragged plastic sheeting barely covers the immediate headspace over what passes for his two rooms, separated from others by flimsy partitions. Ricky makes no apology for his quarters’ appearance, although he does concede that “in the rainy season, then it’s terrible”.
I ask – and in our present surroundings, this feels an idiotic question – if there’s a lot of prejudice towards handicapped people in the DRC. “Normally, I mean, if you’re not a musician…” he says. “Round here, handicapped people have to go round begging. But, you know, we’ve got our heads screwed on, we’re not stupid, despite what people think.”
Ricky and Coco met years ago, on the ferries that ply back and forth across the Congo river to Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo which lies on the northern shore in view of Kinshasa. In the 1970s, handicapés were granted exemption from custom taxes, and many turned their wheelchairs into pick-ups. “In order to cross, people would give me money,” Ricky explains, “and I would arrange for them to travel more cheaply. A handicapped person pays less for transport and I would say this person is my helper so they would get a reduced fare. We did this as a way of earning a living. We smuggled things, too; clothes, food.”
All the band had polio which is a virus that attacks the nerves and stops the muscles working. It can be prevented by vaccination.
Ricky and the others were all shunned by bands because of their disability before deciding to form Staff Benda Bilili six years ago. “Congolese people see a handicapped person and they say, ‘Nah, look, it’s that handicapped guy, he can’t play music, he can’t dance…'” Coco says.

The Observer Music Monthly Caspar Llewwllyn-Smith


Theo (with the black beret), Coco (at the wheel of his bike) and Ricky (on crutches) of Staff Benda Bilili, Ndjili, Kinshasa, Congo (DRC), 14 September 2009. Photograph: Andy Hall
Songs Puts the band in context 2.47 Best start 3.14
Congolese Street Band Call Disability a State of Mind 3.23

“Their songs are educative,” he tells me in faltering English. “There are no stupid words in their songs, they tell you how to live; they’re not obscene like all the rest.”
I was born a strong man crippled by polio
Look at me today I’m screwed onto my tricycle
I have become the man with canes
To hell with these crutches
Parents please go to the vaccination centre
Please save them from this curse
My parents had the good idea to register me at school
Look at me now. I’m a well educated person.
Which enables me to work and support my family.
Parents please don’t neglect your children.
The disabled one is no different from the others.
Treat all your children without discrimination.
Who among them will help you when your’re in need?
God only knows who.
Parents please don’t neglect your children.
The disabled one is no different to the others
(Why should he?)
Treat all your children without discrimination. Je Taime

Polio 3.40 Auramandole 4.40
1.Identify the barriers the members of the band face and how they find solutions to have a successful music career.
2. Analyse the lyrics of one of their songs . What is their key message?
3. What different musical influences are there in Staff Benda Bilili?

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