Without warning, a group of young girls from a remote region of Benin is shaking up the world of garage rock with breathtaking freshness, ingenuity and energy, playing spot-on, loud and clear. a musician named André Baleguemon decided to form an exclusively female band rooted in the concerns of its time. He puts the spotlight on the guitar, drums and keyboard, instruments he has admired since his childhood, symbols of modernity in this remote region. His observation is simple: “In the North, girls have no room to advance and women are put aside. I simply wanted to show the importance of women in the societies of North Benin by forming a female orchestra “. Originally from Tchaourou, a vast commune located in central eastern Benin, André Balaguemon developed a passion for music at a very young age. During the 1990s, he joined the Sam 11 orchestra in Parakou, in the northeastern part of the country, where he successively played trumpet and guitar. In 1999, he spent some time in Cotonou before settling in the northwest, in order to reconnect with his roots and musical passions. On July 25th, 2016, with the support of the city of Natitingou, André launched a press release on Nanto FM offering to help train girls in music for free. A few days later, dozens of aspiring musicians showed up at the Youth Center. “The girls who came didn’t know anything about music. We selected seven girls of the Waama and Nabo ethnic groups from the surrounding villages, some had never even seen these types of instruments before. “ Since the independence era, having your own instruments has always been the prerequisite of any self-respected African orchestra. With drums, two guitars, keyboards and some added percussion purchased by André, the first musical tests began with his new recruits, a handful of young girls among the most motivated. The girls quickly became passionate about their new musical activities, learning how to play drums, guitar, piano and sing vocal harmonies. Their progress was astounding. An intense work of musical training took place, starting with drum workshops, their favorite instrument. Angelique and Urrice on drums and vocals, assisted by Marguerite, the third drummer. Sandrine is on keyboards, as is Grace, who also sings vocals. Julienne is on bass and Anne on guitar. As the founding influence of their approach, André readily quotes Angélique Kidjo, “our main inspiration. She is a woman you cannot ignore. Miriam Makeba is also a source of pride, as is Sagbohan Danialou, Stanislas Tohon. Kaba Diya, the great regional orchestra, also inspired us a lot. ” André’s determination is one of the key elements of this human and artistic success. The girls have already performed dozens of concerts in the region, forging and expanding an already solid repertoire, while attracting an ever-increasing local audience. In addition to musical progress, he has been personally involved with each family, showing them the importance of his project, both musically and humanly and in particular the fact that each girl must remain in school and not be forced into marriage. There are very few female bands in the history of popular African music. If the Amazones de Guinée, la Famille Bassavé and les Colombes de la Révolution in Burkina, the Sœurs Comoë in Ivory Coast or the Lijadu Sisters in Nigeria notably come to mind, Star Feminine Band has no equivalent in Benin. The originality, carefree attitude, freedom, and above all the talent of these young girls is undeniable. At the end of 2018, their encounter with the young French sound engineer Jérémie Verdier accelerated the course of things. On a mission in the region, he called on his Spanish friends Juan Toran and Juan Serra who showed up with their recording equipment in order to record the band’s first songs in the annex of the local museum. Random encounters and fate led Jean-Baptiste Guillot to hear the tapes. He decided to go meet them at the end of 2019. This short but memorable journey sealed the fate of the record you are now holding in your hands. Now aged nine to fifteen, the seven girls of the Star Feminine Band continue to go to school. André installed a rehearsal room in an annex of the Departmental Museum of Natitingou. Several times a week, the seven young girls get together, inhabited by the noblest aspirations, those of singing their culture, their feminine condition and their possible emancipation. They rehearse three times a week, from 4 to 7 p.m. During school holidays, they rehearse daily from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s 2020 but the situation of women in many rural areas of the African continent and also sometimes in large metropolises, has hardly changed since the 1960s, the era of independence when it was believed that everything would change in this continent that was searching for modernity, culture and emancipation. Although there were some followers of the Me Too movement in Africa, it hardly touched the most remote parts of the continent. The Star Feminine Band is taking off. Performing several concerts in Natitingou but also in the surrounding villages. Each time they play in public, they bring together an ever-increasing and curious local audience when it comes to this one of a kind training. Women come en masse, as well as parents with their children, but also many elderly people, in a region where cultural activities are often limited to agricultural or funeral ceremonies. André Baleguemon and his talented protégés adapt songs of traditional inspiration, in a vein of modernized folklore. “We play waama rhythm dances, we want to honor them. We compose songs in French, waama and ditamari, two unknown ethnic groups from the North. We also sing songs in the Bariba language, as well as the Fon language, the main language in Benin, in the new repertoire, in order to be understood by as many people as possible.” Peba is sung in waama. It’s about girls going to school in order to be themselves. Sung in French, the lyrics of La Musique and Femme africaine speak for themselves. Timtilu is sung in ditamari. In this song, the girls give the advice to not abandon your culture, but rather to honor it. A song of emancipation in the peul language, Rew Be Me Light, is an ode to women, an encouragement to succeed in your own career and succeed as a woman. A unifying song, Iseo is sung in bariba. “Men and women, let us rise, from the south, from the center, from the north, let us unite and be one so that the country can evolve”. This song is about bringing together the regions and the diversity of cultures in Benin. Praise be to God in peul, Montealla’s interpretation was inspired by mandingo. Sung in bariba, Idesouse indicates that girls must go to school until the end of their studies in order to defend the values ??of women. They have to fight all the more in order to gain this recognition. Through all of these songs, each of the Star Feminine Band members brings their own inspiration. André composes all their songs. He admits: “They bring their ideas. The dream of these girls is to become international stars. They must show the importance of women throughout the world. Speak of Africa, accomplish great missions around the values ??of women. They talk about female genital mutilation, abuse and violence against girls. We want to include these subjects in the political debate in Benin, then elsewhere in Africa if this is ever possible ”. With much confidence, an undeniable ecumenism and charisma, Star Feminine Band is one of the prides of the Atakora region. The band is even starting to instigate vocations, while sowing the seeds for the next generation of provincial girls, driven by an iron will, forged of the same mineral as the weapons of Kaba, forgotten hero of the Atakora. True heroines of everyday life, the seven girls of the Star Feminine Band embody the future and the next generation in search of recognition. “In the 1960s, God was a black girl who sang” used to say New York composer duo Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Sixty years later, in one of the forgotten provinces of the African continent, this adage takes on its full value.