STAFF BENDA BILILI There’s no such thing as disabled for Staff Benda Bilili, a Congolese band with four paraplegic singers and guitarists at its core. Their music is joyfully upbeat and kinetic; its socially conscious lyrics are carried by soukous and rumba grooves that have bounced repeatedly between Africa and the Caribbean, topped by frenetic solos on a one-stringed electric lute. The group released a new album, “Bouger le Monde!” (“Shake the World!”) on Crammed Discs on Sept. 3; the World Music Institute presents its concert on Oct. 18 at Symphony Space. (Jon Pareles)
-New York Times, Sept 9, 2012 (Fall preview)
Staff Benda Bilili (Thursday) This delightfully galvanizing Congolese group, comprising paraplegic middle-aged singer-guitarists and street children, spread euphoric rumba beats under socially driven lyrics. The group’s name means “look beyond appearances.” At 8 p.m., Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, at 95th Street, (212) 864-5400, symphonyspace.org; $35, $20 for students. (Stacey Anderson)
-New York Times, Oct 12, 2012
However hardwired the musical omniverse grows, now and then a genuinely unimaginable miracle bubbles up from some unsuspected corner. Miracle doesn’t feel like too strong a word to use in reference to Staff Benda Bilili, an astonishingly joyous troupe of street musicians, some of them paraplegic, who came together on the grounds of the Kinshasa Zoo in the Congo. Pay close attention to Roger Landu, virtuoso player on a one-stringed tin-can guitar of his own invention, as the band makes its New York debut under the auspices of the World Music Institute.
-Time Out New York, October 18-24, 2012 (photo used)
Oct. 18: Staff Benda Bilili, makes its New York City début. The band’s core consists of disabled singers and guitarists who started as homeless street musicians who lived in and around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa. Their name means “look beyond appearances” (literally, “put forward what is hidden”), and recently they were the subject of a French documentary that was a hit at Cannes. They’ve since recorded two albums of funky Congolese rumba, and have moved into houses of their own. They like to get around on custom, souped-up motorized tricycles, and the driving, uplifting music they make is sure to move you, too. (Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th St. For more information, call 212-545-7536 or visit worldmusicinstitute.org.)
The lead-in to the concert started outside of the Peter Norton Symphony Space as several members of the renowned Congolese band Staff Benda Bilili rolled up in front of 2537 Broadway at 95th Street and immediately began to engage their fans in amicable conversation, speaking in French. Seated in wheelchairs, smoking cigarettes, were musicians Ricky Likabu Makodu, Coco Yakala Ngambali, Theo Nzonza Nsituvuidi and Djunana Tange-Suele.
Like inquisitive learners, they asked questions as they mingled with their devotees, who were anxiously waiting for the Thursday, Oct. 18, performance to get under way for the World Music Institute’s presentation of Staff Benda Bilili’s debut engagement in New York City…