Posts Tagged ‘Balla Onivogui’

Balla Onivogui (1938 – 2011)

March 21, 2011

Balla Onivogui, trumpet player, composer, arranger and leader of one of the greatest bands from the Golden Age of Guinean music: Balla et ses Balladins. He passed away a week ago today.

Balla was a founder member of Guinea’s first post-independence band, L’ Orchestre Syli. Due to its size, Syli split in two and Balla found himself at the head of Jardin de Guinée, some 50 years ago.

Jardin de Guinée, very early 1960s

You can already hear what became his the trademark sound: gentle, lilting songs that had a knack of wandering slowly into your memory through your ears – and staying there, forever.

Here’s an example from later date:

Jardin de Guinée morphed into Balla et ses Balladins, among the top performers of the Guinean music scene. The band briefly had to change its name into Pivi et ses Balladins (after the second band leader), following a short-lived political conflict between Balla and a minister. Remember that all this glorious music was produced under strict state control and the slightest tiff with the government could end your career.

None of this affected the music.

The cover photo for their last album Objectif perfection

Their last album Objectif perfection was my very first encounter with that great Guinean sound of the 1960s and 70s. It was made at the very tail end of that era and they had every reason to call the album exactly that: it was perfect. No coincidence that Stern’s Africa used a good chunk of “Objectif…” on its luxury 2 CD set, which you should all acquire forthwith.

Here’s just one track from that perfect album…

So here’s to a fine musician and here’s to the remaining members of that dwindling musical fraternity from the golden age, some of whom I hope to see when I visit Conakry legendary La Paiotte, shortly.

The two great bandleaders, Balla Onivogui (l) and Pivi Moriba