Last Word by Staff Benda Bilili

By Staff Benda Bilili

Posted on Friday, 27 August 2010 09:24

Ricky Likabu, Kabamba Kabose Kasungo and Coco Ngambali are members of

Staff Benda Bilili, a group of Congolese street musicians. Five of the

group are disabled as a result of polio, and they are all part of the

Kick Polio out of Africa campaign. Benda Bilili! a documentary about

the group by Renaud Barret and Florent de La Tullaye premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight.

Benda Bilili means “look beyond appearances”. At the beginning, we had a lot of difficulties. Other musicians did not want to work with disabled people. It is the reason we chose this name: you must not look at the disability, you must look further. Now, instead of able-bodied musicians hiring us, it is us who hire them.

We started playing music together in the street and in the Kinshasa zoo. We played at night, from eight in the evening until two or three in the morning, in an atmosphere of love. People gave us a couple of dollars here and there to get by.

It is too expensive to buy a wheelchair in Kinshasa, it costs around $400. It is impossible to get one, unless there is a non-governmental organisation to provide it. You must manage on your own. If you don’t work, you will remain on the street. If your family has something, at least you can be half-OK. But you must find your own way to make a living because society does not see the disabled in Kinshasa.

Sleep on the street, sleep on cardboard, but don’t lose hope. One day it will come. You must never lose hope. Disability is only in the limbs, not the head.

In Kinshasa, polio has started to disappear because the World Health Organisation has helped with vaccinations, but it is mostly the poor people, the sheges (street kids), who still get the disease. Parents must bring their children to clinics to get vaccinations. We sang about it in our song Polio. A lot of people have gone to get vaccinated now and we are proud of that.

Before the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 2006 national elections, we wanted to tell people to vote calmly, without disorder and without war. The UN provided us with a studio. Then they took the disc and gave it to the government, which distributed it to radio stations. We were paid nothing. They thought, ‘What are they going to do? They’re handicapped.’ We were angry, but we let it go. One day we will meet the president with our World Music Expo prize and we will speak with him face to face.

Our new song Kuluna is about thieves, assassins and gangsters. If they live in a democracy, they must leave this way of life behind.?

Children, when they live in the world, become beggars?
Children, when they live in the world, become stealers
Children, when they live in the world, become hooligans?
Don’t do it – leave this disorder!

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