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Staff Benda Bilili: Rumba In The Congo

A group of paraplegic street musicians from Kinshasa, Congo, Staff Benda Bilili (which roughly translates to "look beyond appearances") creates music with astounding power.

Combining Cuban-influenced rumba with elements of soul, blues and reggae, the band performed all over the zoo grounds of the Kinshasa area, attempting to earn money for a living. It caught the attention of traveling British and U.S. musicians such as Massive Attack and Damon Albarn, with whom they've later collaborated.

After recording a series of songs using microphones, a Mac laptop and cables hooked up to a deserted refreshment bar, Staff Benda Bilili released its debut album (Tres Tres Fort) in late March. Backed by a winning combination of rumba, classic Congolese sounds, African dance and hints of funk, its members emphasize issues such as voting and polio vaccines.

Copyright 2009 XPN