Alain Diamond Honors Guinean Musical Legend on Funky 'Paulette' - Rolling Stone
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Alain Diamond Honors Guinea’s Musical Legends With Funky ‘Paulette’ Remix

Diamond pays tribute to the group Balla et ses Balladins on his afro-house hit

The Guinean group Balla et ses Balladins — named for its trumpet player Balla Onivogui — originally released “Paulette” in 1980 on their album Objectif Perfection. It’s unerringly handsome, with pinwheeling, casually virtuosic guitar, reverent massed vocals, a quavery, bleating brass section, and a cooled-out, questing horn solo. To the extent Balla et ses Balladins have a presence on modern streaming services, this is their hit, with 4.6 million streams on Spotify — close to ten times as many as the group’s second most popular track.

One of Onivogui’s many devotees includes the DJ and producer Alain Diamond, who has been filling dancefloors since July with a groove-forward, highly percussive update of “Paulette.” Diamond knows the original gives him a lot to work with, and he lovingly rearranges the gently biting guitar riff, which seems to tie itself in a pretty knot, and the steamrolling brass, which maintains the magnificently shrill sound you hear on older recordings, around a thumping beat heavily syncopated with extra hand drums.

The resulting track is a wonderful collision of time periods — 1980 and 2021 seem to keep trading lead — and tones: The slickly programmed modern drums nod to the latest afro-house, but the guitar and horns blare with the force of tradition. The new “Paulette” is as danceable as it is dissonant.

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