Such is the story about Staff Benda Bilili, a sensational group of disabled musicians living off the streets of Kinshasa, Congo. Their story of survival and rise to fame as musicians was recorded in the documentary "Benda Bilili", filmed over the course of five years by Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye. The documentary appeared in Cannes Film Festival in 2010, an inspiring film for all those who believe that nothing is beyond the impossible.
The name of the group, 'Benda Bilili', which mean “beyond appearances”, has a profound meaning. The band consists of four disabled middle-aged men, formed by Ricky Lickabu and Coco Ngambali, as singers/guitarist who suffered from poliomyelitis when they were young and backed by a younger rhythm section consisting of abandoned street children. The ingenuity of the band is that some members created their own unique instruments made of tins, cans, sticks and wood. One young 19 year-old member, Roger Landu, designed an electrified one-stringed lute out of a tin can. They have natural talent in composing songs and writing lyrics. The wonderful music they produce is described as a mixture of rumba, blues and reggae.
They used to live around the zoo in Kinshasa, sleep on cardboard and play their music in the streets. It was by chance, Vincent Kenis, a Belgian record producer specialising in Congolese music, heard them playing in front of a restaurant. Kenis arranged for the band to record their debut album, Tres Tres Fort ("Very Very Strong"), which was released in March 2009. Since then, they have been on tour around the world.
Band member Coco Yakala once said, “One day, we will be the most famous disabled men in all of Africa.” It looks like they are on their way!