October 16, 2012
Staff Benda Bilili will bring its unique blend of vocals, guitars and tight rhythms to UNC Asheville for an 8 p.m. concert, Tuesday, Oct. 30, in Lipinsky Auditorium. The musicians, paraplegic men and boys who lived and played on the streets around the grounds of Kinshasa zoo in Democratic Republic of the Congo, caught the ear of a visiting Belgian record-producer. The band has now recorded two albums and performed in Europe, Japan and Australia. This is Staff Benda Bilili's first US tour.
Staff Benda Bilili's senior core of musicians, a quartet of vocalists and guitarists, is joined by a younger rhythm section of abandoned street children who were taken in for the children's protection. The band also features solos on a "street-made," one-stringed lute, fashioned from a tin can, a piece of wood and a guitar string.
Once shunned by other musicians because of their disabilities, the musicians of Staff Benda Bilili joined together and have gained fame in their homeland and abroad. Their song, "Let's Go and Vote," distributed by the United Nations Development Program and widely played on radio and TV, is credited with helping produce a dramatic increase in voter turnout in the Congo's historic 2006 election. According to a BBC report, the musicians were still living on the street at the time and were only paid $50 apiece for the recording.
Staff Benda Bilili is the subject of a full-length documentary film, which will also be screened at UNC Asheville as part of the university's Disability Awareness Week, the week before the concert. The film will be part of a double-feature, free and open to the public, with "Murderball," about rugby in the Paralympic Games at 7 p.m., and "Benda Bilili" (the film), beginning at approximately 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Highsmith University Union Grotto.
Staff Benda Bilili, live and in concert, begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, in UNC Asheville's Lipinsky Auditorium. Tickets are $5 for UNC Asheville students; $7 for other students, $15 for faculty/staff/alumni/OLLI members, and $20 for the general public, at uncatickets.com or in person at the Highsmith University Union front desk. For more information, visit the Cultural Events and Special Academic Programs website, or call 828.251.6991.