At first they were known as the ‘Orchestre du Jardin de Guinée’ after the name of their regular venue, a bar in Conakry that is still open for business today. But gradually people called them ‘Balla’ - after their leader Balla Onivogui – ‘et ses Balladins’.
Then a spat with a government minister saw Balla sacked as leader and replaced by his friend, Pivi. So they became ‘Pivi et les Balladins’. But when Sékou Touré, the President, heard about this, his indignant “Since when?” meant Balla was quickly reinstated.
Such were the perils of state employment for musicians. But what music they made! Guinea’s policy of authenticité, with musicians looking to their own roots for inspiration, witnessed a glorious flowering of African music, and ‘Balla et ses Balladins’ were one of the best. Known as the “intellectuals of Guinean music”, their range of material was vast and incorporated elements from local Malinké and Fula traditions, as well as Cuban music and jazz. They toured widely and were an orchestra to which others aspired.
This title was the first full-length album release by the legendary Balla est ses Balladins