This file photograph taken on March 22, 2017, shows Misoko Nzalaya Jean Luther, alias Ir Socklo, a stringed-instrument maker for 40 years, as he speaks with AFP during an interview at his workshop in Kinshasa. AFP / Junior D. KANNAH
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In 2010, a group of Kinshasa street musicians, several of them left paraplegic by childhood polio, caused a sensation in Europe.Benda Bilili wielded instruments in eccentric shapes and exuberant colors, their frets, bridges and nuts made from scrap metal that had been cut and bent by Socklo's rudimentary tools, producing an exceptional timbre.The notion of making a guitar came to Socklo when he was still in secondary school, and wondered if he could reproduce the instrument that he was learning to play.They share the space with an ageless poster of Michael Jackson.His hair cropped short and turning white, the 57-year-old Socklo explains that he learned how to make guitars on his own. Musicians who have tried out Socklo guitars agree that they have a special sound, typically Congolese.At prices varying from $35 and $50 for an acoustic guitar or bass and rising to between $150 and $200 for an electric or electro-acoustic guitar, Socklo's instruments are affordable even in the dire poverty that is the daily lot of most of the 10 million residents in Kinshasa.
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