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Formed in 1970 and funded by Mali's Ministry of Information, the Rail Band was the top big band in the country for quite a long time. They were (and still are) the house band at the Buffet de La Gare in Bamako, taking traditional instruments and music and tailoring them for a modern, urban pop audience. The band became a training ground for Mali's top musicians, and many future stars passed through its ranks, such as Salif Keita and Mory Kante. It was one of the few big bands to survive the recession of the 1980s, thanks to government aid, an international reputation, and the public's regard for it as a cultural institution. Interest in the band surged after Keita and Kante's international breakthroughs, further ensuring its survival and success. ~ Steve Huey