Thursday, September 15, 2011

Benda Bilili! Masters of Survival

by contributor Megan Podeszwa

Benda Bilili! is an uplifting story about a group of Congolese street musicians, many who are stricken with polio. The National Geographic Society hosted a private screening on Wednesday night.

The documentary starts out by introducing the group, Staff Benda Bilili, and their founders who they refer to as “Papa Ricky” and “Coco.”  A majority of the members are stricken with polio and are equipped with customized tricycles.  During the film, they are introduced to Roger, a teenaged boy who is also a street musician, playing a one stringed instrument made from a tin can.  Adding this boy to the group gives their music a unique sound.

"Papa Ricky"
The film follows them as they go through various trials and tribulations, from which they create their songs.  They experience many inequalities, being poor and from the street, and are often forced to sleep on cardboard.  The group only finds strength through these difficult times and create the songs that eventually lead them to fame.

Theo from the band
The Staff Benda Bilili rose from street musicians into becoming international recording artists and starting a world tour.  Benda Bilili! opens October 7 at the E Street Theatre.  Watch the trailer here: