Staff Benda Bilili: Bouger le Monde (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

 |   |  1 min read

Staff Benda Bilili: Ne me quitte pas
Staff Benda Bilili: Bouger le Monde (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

Recently while looking out music for a DJ night of African music I played dozens of tracks at home back-to-back searching for the best sounds . . . and one thing became very clear.

Most of this stuff would drive people crazy and I'd get booted out the bar.

The relentless chant-sing style of so much of what I played at home became off-putting even to me, and I like this stuff . . . so I defaulted to the likes of King Sunny Ade, Sonny Okosun, Manu Dibango, Fela and the like. Reliable old familiars.

The debut album Tres Tres Fort by Staff Benda Bilili was a gem (their story even better) and I loved them at Womad 2012 where the excitement was palpable and one of the band even got out of his wheelchair and danced (which may happen at every gig, I wouldn't know).

But this new album opens with one of those relentless, furious chant-sing pieces and that becomes their default position in a number of places. A number too many for me and while you cannot deny their energy and enthusiasm on disc it can be sometimes less infection than in concert, and a little bit hard work.

That said, their man Roger on that one-string handmade guitar thing really pulls out all the stops (sort of searing or heartbreaking blues as played on an electrified diddley-bo) and the addition of a new guitarist Amalphi who can pull down the magical sped-up juju is a real asset (and together as on Libala Ya Mungwa they are show stoppers).

So it is the more considered songs here -- the minimalist Sopeka which lodges in a corner of the brain, the chipping guitar and percussion on Tangu i Fueni, the mysterious Djambula which sounds more North African -- which come off the best amidst the breathless pace set elsewhere.

Yes, it is hard to escape the sheer energy of Bilanga which -- behind the chant-sing vocals -- sounds like an album played on 45rpm, and I do appreciate that they alternate between fast and slow songs.

But this isn't the Staff Benda Bilili album I'll be playing the most.

However if they ever play in my region again I will be there, with a water bottle in hand and some speed in my pocket just to be sure I can keep up with this flat-tack rush which can be tiring in its relentlessness.  

Share It

Your Comments

bronwyn - Oct 31, 2012

Hi Graham, I saw them perform recently (at the BBC Proms), mostly playing material from this album and it was electrifying, especially Roger's playing, but it sounds like this hasn't quite translated to the recording. And yes, one of them did get out of his chair and dance on the floor.

post a comment

More from this section   World Music articles index

WOMAD TARANAKI CONSIDERED (2013): Some thoughts from the frontline

WOMAD TARANAKI CONSIDERED (2013): Some thoughts from the frontline

Although no one doubted the need for rain . . . but on the final day of Womad? And just two days after a drought has been declared? This rare occurrence – only the second in the... > Read more

Michi Sarmiento: Los Bravos!/The Best of Michi Sarmiento (Sound Way)

Michi Sarmiento: Los Bravos!/The Best of Michi Sarmiento (Sound Way)

Time to push back the furniture and clear some dance space, or at least hit the Google search for the background to this Colombian band leader. Apparently the young Sarmiento pulled... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

LIVING IS EASY WITH EYES CLOSED, a film by DAVID TRUEBA (Madman DVD)

LIVING IS EASY WITH EYES CLOSED, a film by DAVID TRUEBA (Madman DVD)

When, at the end of 1966, John Lennon was going spare after a US tour where he was lambasted for his “Beatles more popular than Jesus” remarks, he took up the offer from Dick Lester... > Read more

T.Rex: Electric Warrior (1971)

T.Rex: Electric Warrior (1971)

By the time of the Tanx album in 1973, things were starting to go sour for T.Rex's frontman Marc Bolan. He hadn't cared when his old champion John Peel had dismissed his glam pop for its... > Read more