Staff Benda Bilili – time of my life

Posted on November 12th, 2009 @ 01:31 in Uncategorized

Here’s a quick review of the best time I’ve had in a long long time at the Staff Benda Bilili [wiki] concert at Brighton Dome just now.

As many of you won’t know them let me the steal Wikipedia’s opening paragraph as a superquick intro: “Staff Benda Bilili are a group of Congolese street musicians. They live around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa, and play music which is rooted in rumba, with elements of old-school rhythm’n’blues and reggae.”. I found out about them through this Metafilter post 18 months ago and was sooo happy to find out they were gonna play in Brighton.

And though I had seen videos of them playing live on Youtube, I was blown away tonight. By their energy, the pure joie de vivre that comes across when they perform, the catchiness of the music. It was impossible to keep to your seat.

Except apparently it was [this is where I insert my inevitable rant]. The Dome is (usually) a seated venue – definitely unsuited for an act like Staff Benda Bilili. And Brightonians are, I’m afraid to say, a generally blasé audience, plus the Dome seems to attract mostly “see, be seen, and have something to talk about” crowd. Jana and I decided around two songs in to go to the back where you were “allowed to stand” and where people were having fun (i.e. dancing). And fun we did have. It was UN-BE-LIE-VA-BLE. This area got more and more crowded.

But in front of us (and thus in front of the band as well, except they were seeing it from the other end of the venue) was a sea of unmoving corpses. God beware they bob their heads to the rhythm! How do they even manage to keep so still? It also became more and more frustrating to me because the band obviously could barely (if at all) see us having fun, they could only see these dead people.

However we prevailed!!!! An early attempt to push past security was thwarted, but towards the end of the concert there were too many of us and we made it to the front!! Power to the people, breaking down of the wall, [add other symbolic shit here], but personally I was soooo happy that the band was finally able to see and interact with the people that were really there to enjoy their music!! And it was AMAZING, you could see they were having so much more fun! And eventually the corpses were forced to get up and enjoy themselves too. *lol*

My rant has of course become too long. I must get back to extolling the virtues of this absolutely incomparable band. I am listening to their album Très Très Fort right now, and though it is a unique and remarkable album (recorded outside, not in a studio setting), it absolutely cannot capture the live energy of these guys (even in front of a sea of pretentious Brighton corpses).

Even standing at the back of the audience, far away from the stage, they were so fucking engaging!! Early on during one of our attempts at getting the “corpses” to join in, one of the guys at the back shouted to me “it’s so great to be alive!” and by Jove it was, just being there, enjoying that moment!

But of course that was nothing compared to being at the very front, right in front of these amazing musicians, dancing for your life, and showing them you were having the time of your life, too. Those final few songs were seriously some of the most amazing moments I’ve had in a very long time.

Yeah. Wow. I am still blown away, and I think I will go to bed with that thought. See, if I didn’t already own their CD I would totally buy it now. But you should! Even if it will be but a pale comparison to seeing them live. Should you ever have the chance to – oh please do! [UK tour dates] No no, they won’t change your life. But they will bring you much happiness for the duration of their performance. Well, unless you are a pretentious corpse of course.

Disclaimer just in case: It is not my intention to piss on people who don’t like to dance, don’t enjoy music with strong rhythms etc. Just don’t go to gigs like this. They are not for you!


JarJar said on Nov 13, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Apparently they were here last Wednesday.

Clarissa said on Nov 18, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Oooh. Shame you missed them, they are great! 😀


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