We are delighted that the Eli’s Cheesecake Festival will once again be a venue for the World Music Festival sponsored by the City of Chicago Office of Cultural Affairs.

On Sunday, September 16th at 2pm, the World Music Festival will present Balla Kouyate and World Vision on the US Cellular Main Stage at the Eli’s Cheesecake Festival.

Balla Kouyaté is one of the greatest balafon players from the Djeli or “griot” tradition in Mali. The Kouyatés were the first djelis in the Mandé Empire. The balafon (ancestor of the xylophone) was given to Balla’s ancestors by nobles in the 12th century and has remained in his family ever since.

Balla seemed destined to play this instrument, learning at the age of six. He performed for the first time in Bamako, Mali at “Palais de la Culture” with Malian singer Sanignai Kouyaté. In 1994, he was a member of the National Percussion of Mali. By 1997 he was granted the opportunity to play with singer Ami Koïta at the O.I.A. conference, which brought together 27 African presidents.

Balla has been called on to play with many African artists touring in the United States and his superior musicianship has been featured on at least 35 albums. Currently he works with kora master Mamadou Diabaté playing venues such as Lincoln Center Outdoor Festival, Symphony Space and festivals around the country. They both are part of Roswell Rudd’s MALIcool ensemble. In 2004, Balla played with Sidiki Condé at Carnegie Hall for a month long residency for children, and has been engaged by many African artists to tour in the United States. He joined Ursel Schlicht’s Ex Tempore in 2004. While playing with Ex Tempore, he felt the need to expand the tonal possibilities of the balafon and created a chromatic instrument, to his knowledge the first chromatic balafon ever. Check out his Collaborations page to see more of his current and past projects.