Staff Benda Bilili

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Staff Benda Bilili rightly made a splash with their first album and the tale behind it. The question was, though, how much depth did they have to sustain a career? On the basis of this sophomore release, the answer is plenty. There's a new drummer and lead guitarist, and the return of their percussionist, as well as a greater sharing of the vocal duties. Plenty of touring has turned them into a very tight band, even more so than before, and one that's less afraid to let go -- "Bilanga" is virtually African rock, while that and "Tangi I Fueni" show new guitarist Amalphi to be a real find, and quite Hendrix-influenced. Recorded in a real studio this time, rather than the Kinshasa zoo, it builds on their earlier work, with some sophisticated songwriting and music that springs out of, but isn't too beholden to, Congolese rhumba. All the pieces here slot together beautifully, and using more voices creates more complex layers of vocals that only add to the pieces. Everything that made them special is still here, and there are plenty of little idiosyncracies (as on the intro to "Kuluna"). But they've shown that they're the musical equals of any band on the planet.

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