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An Album Review and A Recipe for your eyes, ears, nose and mouth

By Vivian Ponte-Fritz

Review of Staff Benda Bilili -Très Très Fort (Crammed Discs)


This weeks post is focussing once again on an album and band that is considered world music. Many people do not tend to lend an ear to this genre when looking through the stacks, seeing as it might be unfamiliar or unfavorable to the good old american aesthetic. But let me tell you, Staff Benda Bilili is easy, beautiful sound that has a broken but equally beautiful story behind it. The musicians in this band all are paraplegic members of the Congo’s slum called Kinshasa, inhabited by many street kids or sheges. They are all subject to hard lives and are creating amazingly creative, innovative and joyful music nonetheless, while living in the zoological garden of this Kinshasa. These artists, most above the age of 50 have created tricycles to get around from place to place. Their one young member, Roger, is 17 and rocks out on an instrument of his own making, a tin can, bow and steel guitar string. Other strange sounds featured on this happy-go-lucky afro funk album are the toads of the garden and the whizzing cars around the outdoor recording “studio” they have fashioned with an old lap top and wires rigged through mud.

You can learn more about them and the documentary about their amazing band at

My favorite track on this album is Mwana, the last track. It summs up the unique sound of the satonge that Roger created and also features the lovely voices all in harmony of the older band members. However, Tonkara or “cardboard” in my second favorite. It is a slower, slightly latin groove that discussed finding luck once one has had to sleep on cardboard. This sense of unparalled optimism really sums up the message that many of Staff Benda Bilili’s songs send. This band is about more that their music, it is about their culture, their struggle and a way of finding a creative force throughout. There is no shame in their situation, they are proud of their accomplishments and sing with cadence and gusto! As Tonkara says:

“A man is never finished

Chance can hit you without warning

It’s never too late in life

Someday I’ll make it too.”

– This band, who’s name translates to “put forward what is hidden” articulates the hidden beauty of the Kinshasa with grace.

Here is a showcase of their recording sessions in the park:

To compliment this review I will provide you with a recipe I tried out today to feed my gluten-free and dairy-free friends.

I hope you enjoy it! It might seem strenge, but as we have experienced with Staff Benda Bilili, something that is unusuall or strange can often turn out to be the very best.

Gluten and Dairy Free Beet and Poppy Seed Muffins


or for my savory seeking friends

here is a recipe for some food you might find in the Congo, the home of the band reviewed today:


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