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Star Feminine Band

An agile all-female group from the small West African nation of Benin, Star Feminine Band play a vivid panoply of highlife, Congolese rhumba, sato, and psych-inspired garage rock and pop with plenty of skill and an infectious youthful exuberance. After learning their instruments from scratch at a local music training camp, the group of seven school-aged women became an inspiring success story by releasing their debut album internationally in 2020. In 2016, a radio station in the northern Beninese town of Natitingou began airing an advertisement recruiting young girls to participate in free music training sessions. Spearheaded by local musician André Balaguemon, the call was answered by Julienne Sayi (bass), Anne Sayi (guitar), Sandrine Ouei (keyboards), Marguerite Kpetekout (drums), and Urrice Borikapei (percussion), who joined Balaguemon's two young daughters, Angélique (drums) and Grâce Marina (keyboard). In a country where very few women play instruments, the concept itself was novel and most of the girls, then aged between 6 and 13, had no musical experience or even been near an electric guitar or keyboard before. With the hope of empowering young women in a region known for its severe gender inequality, Balaguemon tutored the girls on their respective instruments, instituting a rigorous rehearsal schedule that yielded impressive results. Within a couple of years, the septet had gelled into a musically daring young band with a unified voice and an assertively feminist bent. By 2018, Star Feminine Band were performing regularly around the region and had settled into a dedicated rehearsal space donated by Natitingou's mayor. A French recording engineer named Jérémie Verdier chanced upon one of their performances during a volunteering trip to Benin and was inspired to come back with a crew and help record them. Released in 2020 by French label Born Bad Records, Star Feminine Band's acclaimed self-titled debut introduced the vital young group to a widespread international audience.
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
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