Acclaimed African Musicians lend their voice to kick polio out of Africa

Congolese Band Staff Benda Bilili joins Rotary’s EndPolioNow campaign as goodwill ambassadors …

DOUALA/CAMEROON (Apr. 7, 2010) – In the lead-up to the World Cup in South Africa this summer, musicians across Africa are lending their voice for the final push to kick polio out of the continent. Leading the chorus in the fight against the crippling childhood disease are the shooting stars of world music: Staff Benda Bilili.

Staff Benda Bilili, which means “look beyond appearances” in Lingala, is a group of eight former street musicians from Kinshasa, whose debut album Très Très Fort , produced and distributed by the Belgian record company, Crammed Discs, has received international media acclaim and won the 2009 Womex Artist award. The core of the band consists of four singers, who are all polio survivors. Their signature song, “Polio”, speaks of the disease that drastically changed their lives, and urges parents to immunize their children.

Called “The Kings of the Congo” by the French newspaper La Libération, the band will launch its much anticipated Europe tour on 11 April in Dortmund, Germany. Later this year, French filmmakers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye will release a feature length documentary on Staff Benda Bilili and the making of their debut album.  

“Of course we’re happy to be part of the campaign. After all, we’re handicapped by polio, and we are the first group to sing about polio, so naturally we’re ready to help,” says band leader Ricky Likabu after being named Rotary polio goodwill ambassadors. “Our song ‘Polio’ is simply to implore parents to take their children to health clinics to be vaccinated, as the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends. Parents are responsible for their children, and they need to know how to avoid diseases.”

The announcement of Staff Benda Bilili’s appointment coincides with a regional polio summit in Douala (7-9 April) and the arrival of a football, signed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and a growing number of notable “Kick polio out of Africa” advocates, on its 4-month journey through 22 polio-affected African countries to mobilize the public for the massive immunizations campaign in West and Central Africa this spring.

“I’m happy and thankful that Staff Benda Bilili teamed us with us to score that final goal. We are on the brink of eradicating this life-threatening, cruel disease, but as long as there is one case of polio, no African child will be safe,” says Ambroise Kasongo of Kinshasa, who chairs Rotary’s African Regional PolioPlus Committee. “Staff Benda’s beautiful Congolese rumba-rooted songs are overlaid with vibrant and wise lyrics. Being polio victims themselves, people will take their message to heart.”

In January, Nigerian folk musician Dan Maraya Jos, who has stirred the hearts of Nigerians with songs on a range of social issues for over four decades, was named Rotary’s goodwill ambassador for polio eradication in Nigeria. A custodian of Hausa culture and tradition, Jos has recorded three radio public service announcements in Hausa in a regional version of Rotary’s “We are this close to Ending Polio” campaign.

Of the total 735 polio cases in Africa in 2009, 388 cases were recorded in Nigeria, the last African country where polio is still endemic.

In neighboring Benin, pop singer and Unicef ambassador Zeynab Abib has been lending her voice to the polio eradication campaign and childhood vaccination with her song “Sauvons la vie de nos enfants” (Let’s save the life of our children) and participation in many local social mobilization events.

A total of 19 countries in West and Central Africa will participate in synchronized national immunization activities 24-27 April, targeting 85 million children under the age of five. The next immunization round in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where three polio cases were recorded last year, will start on May 1.


2 Responses to “Acclaimed African Musicians lend their voice to kick polio out of Africa”

  1. AYOUB Says:


  2. Documentary at Cannes Film Festival about Congolese polio survivors « Kick Polio out of Africa Says:

    […] Documentary at Cannes Film Festival about Congolese polio survivors By kickpoliooutofafrica Please click below to watch an exerpt of the amazing story of Staff Benda Bilili – the Congolese band formed by polio survivors. We covered their efforts before here. […]

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