"Tres Tres Fort"
1. Moto Moindo
2. Polio
4. Sala Keba
5. Moziki
6. Sala Mosala
7. Avramandole

The debut album by Staff Benda Bilili was produced by Vincent Kenis, already responsible for introducing and producing Konono No1, Kasai Allstars and the Congotronics series. The songs were recorded out in the open, mainly in the zoological garden near centre ville, using a dozen microphones (one of them formerly used by Jacques Brel, which greatly impressed Ricky), a MacBook and a 100m extension cord fraudulously connected to a deserted refreshment bar nearby.

Overdubs were done in a living room, the acoustics of which were ideally damped by very large salmon-tinted sofas and a number of empty beer bottles. The unpredictable electrical supply gave us plenty of time to rehearse between takes, which led Coco, who was new to overdubbing, to come up with great guitar parts. Alas, those on Tonkara were lost forever: the producer had the strange idea to save them on his iPod, which was stolen shortly after… he was so embarrassed that he tried to play them himself on the guitar from memory, hoping the musicians wouldn’t notice. Of course it didn’t work.

Other unexpected guests on this album include the great Tandjolo Premier from Kasaï Allstars, who came passing by during the sessions to show us his new lokombe (giant slit drum);  the toads featured on Polio, who have a permanent artist residence in the Jardin Zoologique; and the omnipresent rumbling from the most worn-out car fleet in the world.  Play it Très Très Fort.

The four videos which are included in the CD were directed by Belle Kinoise aka Florent de la Tullaye and Renaud Barret, who encountered the band while they were filming their Jupiter's Dance documentary in Kinshasa. Florent and Renaud have been following the band since 2004 and are working on a feature-length film devoted to Staff Benda Bilili. The Polio video was shot during the recording sessions in Kinshasa's zoological garden, Je t'aime and Tonkara were shot during rehearsings, while Staff Benda Bilili, a trailer for the film, condenses the band's story in 2:35.      

Très Très Fort is now also being released on VINYL, only as part of the limited-edition CONGOTRONICS BOX SET (which is only available for a limited period from the Crammed online store)

Press quotes on Staff Benda Bilili

We are all going to buy this wonderful record, we are going to share it with our friends, and – hey presto – we will have the Buena Vista Social Club of the brave new Obama age… Album Of The Year : signed, sealed and delivered
(Songlines, UK)

Combine reggae, rumba, soul and funk with traditional African rhythms as accessibly and joyously as Bob Marley. Inspirational
(Uncut, UK)

Staff Benda Bilili - The masters of survival, the sound of the ghetto…
The musicianship is subtle and precise, forged by the group's extraordinary work ethic, and their sound has a raw simplicity and uniqueness (…) Africa doesn't need our pity. Africa demands and deserves our admiration and wonder, our humility and respect. Staff Benda Bilili embody this truth with total dedication and style
(The Independent, UK)

A string of incredibly affecting songs that (…) draw on funk, soul and mambo while they deal with corruption, poverty, disease and the waste of lives they see around them every day… delivered with a devastating melodic ease; nothing is forced, everything just flows… Staff Benda Bilili are more of a force of nature than anything as prosaic as a group
(Sunday Times, UK)

While this miraculously conceived project is no Congotronics… it has its own manifest charm. Rooted in the Congolese tradition of rumba rock and the influence of Rumble in the Jungle-era James Brown, there’s a wonderful warmth and an often ramshackle jollity to proceedings…beyond their inspirational story lies a CD… with it’s own magic
(Observer Music Monthly, UK)

An extraordinary release with an equally extraordinary backstory  
(The Wire, UK)

There’s a certain extra rhythmic edge, an open-hearted enjoyment of beat… Staff Benda Bilili are good news. The name means (…) ‘put forward what is hidden’ – not to be hidden much longer, one might feel
(fRoots, UK)

Even if the tale so far of Staff Benda Bilili wasn’t such an inspiring one, Très Très Fort still wouldn’t fail to melt the coldest of hearts… incredible
(HMV Choice, UK)

Staff Benda Bilili croon beautiful harmonies accompanied by spare but perfectly suited instrumentation. These are musicians of extremely humble means who create startling warm and vital music from the barest of resources. It’s a compelling story for sure, but the music is superb enough to speak for itself
(Pop Matters, USA)

Konono N°1 mastermind Vincent Kenis has done more than anyone else to bring weirdly beautiful homespun Congolese street music to the world's attention. He'll add another notch to his resume on March 23 when Crammed Discs releases the Kenis-produced Très Très Fort, the debut album from Staff Benda Bilili   
(Pitchfork, USA)

(The makeshift instrument) designed by young Roger Landu is particularly amazing. Made with a simple powder milk tin, a stick and a metal wire, plugged to a pedal and an amp, it generates a riotous guitar-like sound that would make Jimi Hendrix turn pale.
(Volume/Les Inrockuptibles, France)

The sleevenote translations are invaluable, as these witty tunes relate everyday struggles… This is real street music that resounds with a lust for life
(Metro, UK)

The sheer ingenuity of the instrumentation, especially (Roger) Landu’s plinky satonge, makes for idiosyncrasies…’Moto Moindo’ reaches velocity as the satonge gets faster and faster, ‘Sala Keba’ sounds like a Congolese response to a doowop – or vocal rhythm and blues – song. Astonishing
(New Internationalist, UK)

It was a perfect moment, symbolising the purpose of the Africa Express trip to the Congo: some of the most celebrated musicians in Africa and the West playing with members of Staff Benda Bilili, a group formed by homeless and disabled polio victims living in the grounds of Kinshasa Zoo. It was unrehearsed, teetered on the edge of disaster, yet inspirational. (…) The band swayed in time in their antiquated wheelchairs, while a couple of kids danced around. It was achingly lovely music, created out of the most terrible adversity. ‘That was beautiful,’ said [Massive Attack's] Robert del Naja at the end, visibly moved. ‘It was worth coming all this way just to hear that’.  
(Ian Birrell, The Independent)


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Tres Tres Fort