Star Feminine Band: In Paris review – virtuosity meets protest on all-girl group’s second LP

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Sebastien Salom-Gomis/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Sebastien Salom-Gomis/AFP/Getty Images

Benin’s Star Feminine Band have had a remarkable journey to releasing their music. The seven-piece all-female group, aged between 12 and 19, only began learning their instruments in 2016, after participating in a free music workshop in their remote home town of Natitingou. Following two years of after-school rehearsals, the group came to the attention of French engineer Jérémie Verdier, who recorded demos of the band’s celebratory mix of Ghanaian highlife melody, earthy Congolese rumba and folk sato rhythms.

Those tapes made their way to Parisian label Born Bad Records and in 2020 the band debuted with a self-titled album. Confronting their status as one of the only groups in Benin to feature women playing instruments, they produced songs such as Peba and Femme Africaine, which advocated for their place in society.

Two years on, and following their first international performances, Star Feminine Band return with 10 tracks that showcase the group as prodigious performers. Star Feminine Band in Paris builds on the socio-political themes of the group’s debut, with the mid-tempo synth-funk of Le Mariage Forcé protesting against the practice of arranged marriage for children, while L’excision, all clattering polyrhythms, rails against female genital mutilation.

Rather than just positioning the band as a protest group made novel by the age and gender of its members, the virtuosity gives their songs of social urgency added depth. Opener We Are Star Feminine Band, for instance, bursts forth with head-scratchingly complex polyrhythms played by the group’s three percussionists. Peba Ikisina, meanwhile, artfully interweaves a lyrical solo from guitarist Anne Sayi with a syncopated bassline from her sister Julienne, and Woman Stand Up showcases the group’s layered vocal harmonies.

Despite Star Feminine Band only being teenagers with six years of practice under their belts, in Paris showcases the group’s astounding pace of instrumental development. While their songwriting could benefit from exploring softer, more downtempo moments in future, it is hugely exciting to hear a fast-moving group with such an urgent message.

• In Paris is released on 23 September

Also out this month

Sri Lankan rapper Bo Sedkid tackles his home country’s political corruption on his latest album, Goring (Chinabot). Sedkid’s languid baritone delivery sinks nicely into his trap-referencing productions, reaching an apex on the menacing title track. Kinshasa funk producer Pisco Crane collaborates with MC Lady Aicha on N’Djila Wa Mudjimu (Nyege Nyege Tapes), producing a dancefloor-friendly onslaught of clattering rhythms, punctuated by Aicha’s energetic vocals. Texan trio Khruangbin join forces with Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré in celebration of his father’s music on Ali (Dead Oceans). Touré’s husky vocals are a welcome addition to the group’s guitar-heavy melodies, injecting some vitality into mid-tempo instrumentals that can otherwise feel repetitive.