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
international breakthroughs, further ensuring its survival and success.