Cheikh N'Digel Lô was born in the late 1950s to Senegalese parents in Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso and began playing drums and singing at an early age.
He joined Orchestre Volta Jazz, a Bobo variety band that played Cuban and Congolese pop songs as well as traditional Burkinabé music. Lô moved to Senegal in 1978, performing in several mbalax outfits. By then, the Zairean sound was in full flower, Camerounian makossa was coming on strong, and reggae had entered the mix, and Lô absorbed everything. In 1985, he was playing guitar with numerous Côte d'Ivoire and French musicians, which led him to record material in Paris in 1987. After his band dissolved, Lô remained in Paris as a session musician, developing his own sound, described as a mix of mbalax, reggae and soukous influences. He spent most of his time in recording studios, and he picked up as much as he could. His casual contacts with Zaire's most successful progressive singer, Papa Wemba, were especially memorable. "I was a drummer. So when there was a group who came and didn't have a drummer, I would practice with them. Papa Wemba's drummer was also a businessman, so if he wasn't there, I would help out. He's from the school of Tabu Ley, and when I was young, I listened to Tabu Ley a lot."
In 1995, Youssou N'Dour offered to produce Lô's debut album, Ne La Thiass, which became a success worldwide.
In 2000, Lô sang alongside Ibrahim Ferrer on "Choco's Guajira", from Cuban pianist Rubén González's album Chanchullo.
In 2002, he appeared on two tracks of the Red Hot Organization's tribute album to Fela Kuti, Red Hot and Riot. He collaborated with Les Nubians and Manu Dibango on one of the tracks, "Shakara / Lady (Part Two)."
Lô is a member of the Baye Fall, a movement within the Mouride Sufi order of Islam. As such, he has dreadlocks, which is part of the order's customs. The reggae influence in his music, along with his dreadlocks, often leads to the misinterpretation that he is Rastafarian.
Sekouba "Bambino" Diabate was born in a village 25 km from Siguri, he began singing with local bands in 1972 (he was given the nickname ‘Bambino’ because he was so young). He won the prize for best vocalist at Guinea’s National Arts and Culture Festival in 1979, as a result of which he was invited to become lead singer with the state-sponsored Orchestre Bembeya Jazz National . He stayed with the group until 1990, when he left to pursue a solo career. Soon afterwards, he released his debut cassette and Le Destin, a bestselling follow-up in 1992. Both releases featured Diabaté’s powerful and still youthful-sounding vocals, backed by a chorus of female singers and a band playing predominantly traditional West African instruments. Le Destin was released internationally on CD by the German Popular African Music label with two tracks from Diabaté’s debut African cassette. In 1996, by now a huge star among West Africans both at home and in Europe, Diabaté provided vocals for tracks on Africando’s Gumbo Salsa and in the following year released Kassa under the name Sékouba Bambino. Produced by Ibrahima Sylla, best known for his groundbreaking work on Salif Keita’s Soro, Kassa featured re-recordings of songs from his earlier African releases as well as new material.
Balla Tounkara is a jeli (also known as griot by westerners) and master kora player from Mali, West Africa. He and his band, Groupe Spirit, have been bringing a spicy, eclectic blend of African, Latin, Funk, Reggae and Blues musical styles to enthusiastic audiences across the United States. The band regularly performs in Boston and New York City.
Balla has played with a host of world renowned musical artists, including: Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Jimmy Cliff, Baba Maal, Super Rail Band with Djelimady Tounkara, Ali Farka Toure, Oumou Sangare, Ami Koita, Toumani Diabate, Kine Lam, Adboulaye Diabate, Kandia Kouyate, Habibe Koite, T.J. Wheeler, John Sinclair and others. He regularly speaks out on important, pressing social issues such as AIDS and violence.
In 2002 the band was nominated as Outstanding World Music Act at the Boston Music Awares, and had the track Le Monde est Fou from their CD Be Right included on Putumayo World Music’s compilation From Congo to Cuba.