Album Review | Born Bad Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson
If you were to tot up the ages of this seven-piece all-female Benin-based group, the figure would still be under one hundred. In fact, the average age of these young musicians is just fourteen, ranging between ten and seventeen. Female groups in Benin are practically unheard of and therefore Sandrine, Grace, Julienne, Anne, Angelique, Urrice and Marguerite are well aware that they might be seen as a little shoal of fish swimming in a male dominated pool, yet they sparkle with joy and warmth. Before the opening song “Peba” reaches it’s first chorus, there’s already an infectious pulsating vibrancy that flows from the speakers, which calls for us to turn up the volume and to get on our feet.
Formed after responding to a call from a local radio station to take part in what could be potentially a life changing opportunity, the girls were selected to take advantage of some free music training sessions, organised by André Balaguemon, a local musician; in fact, two of his daughters are members of the band. The eight selections, mostly written by Balaguemon with further input from the musicians themselves, encompass a fertile cross pollination of styles, from Highlife, Congolese Rumba and Garage Rock, which are mostly performed in French with the occasional venture into their own local languages of Waama and Ditamari. The Star Feminine Band may appear to be something of a novelty, especially in terms of their demographic, but the potential for these young women to make their mark on the international music scene is already very much there.