Benda Bilili: Achieving Dreams through Music


Staff Benda Bilili, 2010 at "Palmengarten" in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
By Dontworry (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ryan Geertsma and Robin Basselin tell about the film Benda Bilili! The film tells the story of a music group who worked hard to achieve their goal.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin.  Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Every year in May, actors, film makers and experts gather together in Cannes, France. They gather for the international Cannes Film Festival. There, they watch new films from all over the world. And groups of experts judge the films. In 2010, one of those new films was called Benda Bilili! Filmmakers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye created this film. In it, they tell a true story of an unusual music group from the city of Kinshasa. Today’s Spotlight is on this film and the Staff Benda Bilili music group.

Voice 2 

Kinshasa is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Life in this city can be difficult. Most people suffer from poverty. Often, they do not have enough food to eat. And large groups of people live together in shelters. In these conditions diseases like polio spread very easily.

Voice 1 

Papa Ricky Lickabu and Coco Ngambali grew up in Kinshasa. They both had the disease polio as children. Polio left Papa Ricky and Coco disabled or handicapped. The two men could not use their legs.

Voice 2 

However, both men could play music. In fact, they were extremely skilled. Still, many people could not look beyond their handicaps. Papa Ricky told BBC News that he could not find work as a musician.

Voice 3 

“When I went to see my musician friends to look for work, they did not want to work with me even though I knew how to sing and play the guitar. They did not want to work with me at all because I am handicapped. They said ‘You are always late and you cannot dance. Working with us just will not work.’”

Voice 1 

So Papa Ricky and Coco started their own music group called Staff Benda Bilili. Soon, other musicians joined their group. They were also handicapped from polio. Some played instruments. Some sang. And some of them even danced by using their hands like feet.

Voice 2 

All of the men worked other jobs during the day. But, they played their music as often as they could. The men of Staff Benda Bilili believed they could do anything they wanted, even with their physical handicaps. Benda Bilili means “look beyond appearances.” And this is what they wanted people to do - look beyond their physical handicaps. The members of Staff Benda Bilili dreamed of being famous for their music, not for their handicaps. They hoped that one day their music would even be popular in Europe.

Voice 1 

Staff Benda Bilili started by playing their music on street corners. They played their music outside bars and restaurants where people ate. People liked their music and gave them money. But the musicians did not earn enough money to stop working their other jobs.

Voice 2 

Then, in 2004, filmmakers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye heard Staff Benda Bilili performing in the streets. In their film Benda Bilili!, Barret describes how they felt when they first met these musicians.

Voice 4 

“When we met Staff Benda Bilili on the corner of a street... We immediately loved these undiscovered, skilled musicians. Their songs were about living on the streets of a city that had no mercy. Their music went straight to our hearts.”

Voice 1 

After that, they decided they wanted to work with this music group. They wanted to help them make a music album. And they wanted to film the process. Staff Benda Bilili and the filmmakers began to work together. The filmmakers recorded everything. They filmed the musicians as they practiced their music at the Kinshasa zoo. They filmed the musicians when they played in the streets. They even filmed the musicians when they were not playing music. And they were filming when Staff Benda Bilili met Roger Landu, a 13-year-old musician.

Voice 2 

Roger worked in Kinshasa to support his family. He created his own instrument from a bent wood bow, a tin can, and one metal wire. He called his instrument a satonge. With it, he played popular songs to make money. Papa Ricky and Staff Benda Bilili heard Roger play and were very amazed. Papa Ricky knew that Roger could be a very skilled musician if he trained more. So Papa Ricky invited Roger to join Staff Benda Bilili. Roger practiced with the group. He learned from the more experienced musicians. Soon he began to perform with them.

Voice 1 

After a while, the group went to a music studio to record their first music album. Recording was not easy. The musicians made many mistakes. And during the recording, Papa Ricky’s wife called. She told him there was a fire. The fire destroyed the shelter where many of them lived. As a result, the men went home - without finishing their album.

Voice 2 

A year later, Barret and de la Tullaye came back to Kinshasa. They had found a music recording company that would help Staff Benda Bilili create their first music album. In their film, Barret and de la Tullaye show Papa Ricky encouraging the rest of the group before recording.

Voice 3 

“Let us put our problems away until we have an album in our hands.”

Voice 1 

Finally, in March, 2009, after five years and many difficulties, Staff Benda Bilili finished recording their album. They called it “Très Très Forť,” which means very, very strong. A few months later, they travelled to Europe to play for a music celebration event in France.

Voice 2 

Staff Benda Bilili continues to travel and play their music - sometimes for crowds with thousands of people. The men of Staff Benda Bilili have seen their dream become real. Their music became famous in many countries around the world.  And they travelled to Europe. They achieved this because they never stopped hoping and working hard. Staff Benda Bilili is also thinking about the future. Music gave Papa Ricky and the other men hope. It helped them think positively about the future. They want to share that hope and positive thinking with future generations. De la Tullaye explained,

Voice 5 

“With the money they earn from the film, they want to start an organization. They want to build a place to teach young musicians and continue the Staff Benda Bilili experience.”

Voice 1

Staff Benda Bilili should have no trouble achieving their new dream. Roger is a good example. He learned a great deal from the men of Staff Benda Bilili.  He said,

Voice 6

“I am the youngest member of the group. I grew up with the others, so I cannot let them down. When I met Ricky, he told me that someday I would become the leader of the Staff Benda Bilili. So I have a lot of responsibility and a lot of work to left to do.”

Voice 2

The writer of this program was Courtney Schutt. The producer was Ryan Geertsma.  The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “Benda Bilili: Achieving Dreams through Music.”

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Question:

Who is your favorite musical artist? What do you like about them?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
rizwan
said on November 30, 2011

This article is very motivational. I am very much interested to listen these types story. It’s ignite positive energy in me.

Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on December 01, 2011

Each of us has our conditions. We experience difficulties in the life. Everyone aims to good things. We have dreams and hope. We try much to live our lives well. We could achieve big dreams or small dreams. In the life when we try much to live our lives well, we show hope for good things.

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on January 22, 2020

It is difficult for me to define a favorite musical artist. I like music so much that I have many favorite singers, men and women, in various countries. Frank Sinatra; Tonny Bennet; Ella Fitsgerald; Billy Holiday; Louis Armstrong; Nat King Cole; Elza Soares; Elis Regina; Roberto Carlos; Nelson Gonçalves; Elizete Cardoso; Maria Bethânia; Charles Aznavour; Edith Piaf; Peppino de Capri ... and many others wonderful musicians throughout my life ...