His instrument, the kora, the 21-string harp-lute of Mandinka origin, is a family heirloom. Ballaké is the son of Djelimady Sissoko, grandmaster of the kora from Gambia, founding member and then director of the National Instrumental Ensemble of Mali and co-author in 1971 of the first instrumental album of kora entitled Cordes anciennes. After undergoing a training with her maternal grandfather, Cherifou Sissoko, also a kora player, Ballaké joined the National Instrumental Ensemble of Mali at the age of 13. He will perfect his kora skills alongside the great masters and colleagues of his father Sidiki Diabaté (Toumani Diabaté’s father), N’Fa Diabaté and Batrou Sékou Kouyaté. In 1991, at the age of 23, he left the Ensemble Instrumental to accompany Kandia Kouyaté, one of the most emblematic Malian griot singer. Offering an innovative kora expertize, Ballaké quickly becomes the most sought-after instrumentist of the first generation of great griots like Amy Koïta or Tata Bambo Kouyaté. In 1997 he recorded his first album under his name entitled Kora music from Mali and in 1998 a second album of the same name.
In 1999, he published under Hannibal the album Nouvelles cordes anciennes with Toumani Diabaté, in tribute to the album of their two fathers entitled Cordes anciennes and also participated in the recording of the album Kulanjan with bluesman Taj Mahal. That same year, Ballaké made a remarkable appearance at the Angoulême Métis Music Festival and, the following year at Label Bleu, signed the album Déli, hailed by international critics, which marked the beginning of his solo career. Ballaké will then multiply musical encounters with international instrumentalists and composers such as Ross Daly, Keyvan Chemirani, Dariush Talai or Ludovico Einaudi. In 2005, his second album at Label Bleu, Tomora, marked him as one of the most promising virtuosos of the kora of the new generation. Since then, Ballaké continues his work of musical experimentation with artists like Liu Fang with whom he recorded in 2006 the album Silk Sound or more recently Andy Emler, Médéric Colignon or Guillaume Orti. In 2008, he released an album with Rajery and Driss El Maloumi as part of a project called 3MA.
His collaboration with Vincent Ségal began in 2009 with the recording of the album Chamber Music in Salif Keïta’s studio in Bamako (Best International Album at Les Victoires du Jazz) and continues with Musique de Nuit, in 2015.
Born in Bamako (Mali), Baba Sissoko is the undisputed master of tamani (the original talking drum), that he started to play since he was a child (thanks to the teaching of his grand-father Djeli Baba Sissoko and Djeli Maka Sissoko and Djatourou Sissoko) and from which he is able to extract all the notes simply with a one, natural movement.
Baba Sissoko plays also ngoni, kamalengoni, guitar, balaphon, calebasse, Hang and… he sings! He is from a great and ancient dynasty of griots from Mali: in the Malian tradition, griots are deputed to calm down hearts and souls, by means of music. Baba Sissoko has been the first one to introduce the sound of tamani in the modern music of Mali.
In the Baba compositions there is a great influence of Amadran, that is a repetitive and hypnotic musical structure typical from Mali by which, according to many researchers, blues was born. His style is peculiar: Baba loves to integrate melodies and rhythms of the Malian tradition (Bambara, Peul, Mandig e Sonrai) with the typical sounds of jazz and blues, creating fantastic musical effects. This also thanks to the numerous experiences with other musicians belonging to cultures and roots completely different from his background. With DJ Khalab, in the album «Khalab & Baba», released in October 2015, with a piece of which («Tata») won the Track of the Year award at the 2016 edition of the Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards, an annual ceremony organized by BBC DJ Gilles Peterson. In addition, in March 2018 he was awarded the African Grammy «Obaland Music Awards» as best African jazz musician for the year 2018. His ability to play a wide range of musical instruments, his warm and sweet voice and his extreme sensitivity to other musical genders and expressions, brought him to cooperate with many fine musicians. Among others, he worked and cooperated with Habib Koite, Rokia Traore, Ibrahim Ferrer, Buena Vista Social Club, Don Moye and Art Ensemble of Chicago, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Enzo Avitabile, Miguel Anga Diaz, Omar Sosa, Chris Joris, Bob Stuwart, Aka Moon, Roberto Fonseca, Oumou Sangare, Philippe Caterina, Toots Thielemans, Kasse Mady Diabate, Afel Bocoum, Cheick Tidjane Chek, Toumani Diabate, Ballake Sissoko, Mighty Mo Rodgers, Antonello Salis and many others.
He’s the leader of many different musical band like: Baba Sissoko Solo; Baba Sissoko Afroblues – African Griot Groove; Baba Sissioko Jazz ®Evolution; Baba Sissoko “Three Gees”; Baba Sissoko & Djana Sissoko Duo, Baba Sissoko & Mali Tamani; Baba Sissoko & Taman Kan; Baba Sissoko Black Rock, Baba Sissoko & Antonello Salis duo, Baba Sissoko Nicodemo feat Lilies on Mars, Baba Sissoko Mediterranean Blues..