Today: February 21, 2024
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Benda Bilili Cinema

Let’s face it, on the surface, a doc about a bunch of elderly,
disabled, homeless African musicians playing DIY instruments is hardly
the big cinema sell. But given that Blur’s Damon Albarn was one of the
many low-key celebrities at the packed out preview screening and concert
of the aforementioned, screaming like a tweeny at a Justin Bieber
concert, there’s obviously something to shout about.

The
documentary is the story of eight Congolese musicians, Staff Benda
Bilili, four of whom are paraplegic and another on crutches. They are
discovered, back in 2004, by filmmakers/ record producers Barret and de
la Tullaye on the streets of Kinshasa, littered at night by hundreds of
desperate homeless children. The somewhat resourceful band earn a buck
to support themselves and the kids by playing on makeshift instruments.
Roger Landu, the fully-abled, wide-eyed, then 12 year old innocent,
launches his career with literally a curved piece of wood and a tightly
wound string attached to an empty milk tin, otherwise known as a
monochord. Now 20, he’s since the proud owner of a guitar.

If you’re thinking that the concert can only be a stilted affair
onstage, then think again. Despite the lack of one member’s use of
legs, it does not stop him ejecting himself from the seat of his
extraordinary tricyle, hands down into the dirt and body-popping
feverishly to the beats. The music has the energetic influence of both
Afro-funk and soulful blues appealing to an international audience.

This
is your ultimate rags-to-riches tale, as we follow the band’s quest to
raise enough money to make an album and become the most famous disabled
band in the world. Since the filming of the documentary, Staff Benda
Bilili are well known in the World Music arena, staging tours across
Europe. From the dusty streets of Congo, cursed with one misfortune
after another (their homeless shelter burns down to the ground, for one)
to the comfort of hotel rooms now, their only real dilemma, is how they
are going to smoke their weed without getting caught. A captivating documentary.



Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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