Strut present the first ever compilation of Balka Sound, bringing together their influential 1980s recordings, Hailing from Congo-Brazzaville and led by revered vocalist and ngonfi player, Nkibi “Lusialala” Albert, Balka Sound created their own unique musical world, re-imagining traditional Congolese Balka rhythms with electric guitars, electric bass and drums, alongside the traditional 5-string ngonfi.
Nkibi Albert had risen to fame in 1972 with his solo hit ‘Ah Lusialala’ and Balka Sound was created to bring the sound of Balka, a folk style from the Beembe people, to modern life and an international audience. With its roots in slavery and colonialism rumba was dominating the music scene in Congo while the philosophy of Balka Sound was to find its inspiration directly in local country life, to associate the modern and the traditional and to revive folk traditions that were dying. Founder member Henri Nsika Nkaya explains, “it was intended to be an update, a unification and an internationalisation of Congolese cultures.”
In 1979, during a festival organised by the Centre Culturel Français, the band won a recording deal to release their first album: Le 1er son du Balka, Lusialala et ses amis, recorded in just one take. Their success led to a second LP, Tu Kine Balka, recorded in Kinshasa in 1982. A third album in 1984, Afro Musik Creation, featured a more modern studio production sound. Their songs drew from traditional folk tales and parables, life lessons and the damage caused by rural exodus to the cities. By 1985, Balka Sound were working full-time with residencies at Chez Tantine Clara in Brazzaville, a well-known tourist venue, and the Frantel Cosmos Hotel.
In 1991, political tensions were rising in the country; civil disobedience and threats of a military coup were followed by a civil war from 1993 to 1994. The band eventually regrouped and were invited to perform in 1996 at the Palais des Congrès for the Fête National. Unfortunately, on the first day of new fighting in 1997, Balka Sound’s studio was looted and the band were forced to finally disperse.
This first compilation of the band’s music is curated and annotated by Makila Nsika Nkaya in conjunction with Balka Sound and has been fully remastered by The Carvery.