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 renowned Ensemble Nationale du 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 artists touring in the United States and has been featured on at least 45 albums. He has worked extensively with top African musicians, playing major venues such as Lincoln Center Outdoor Festival, Symphony Space and festivals around the country.
Moving freely in many different genres, Balla has also played with Ben Harper, Susan McKeown and Toumani Diabaté and is featured on Yo-Yo Ma’s CD, Songs of Joy and Peace, Angelique Kidjo's CD, Oyo and Vusi Mahlasela's Say Africa.
He has also worked with jazz musician, Roswell Rudd's MALIcool ensemble. 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, including Sekouba Bambino Diabaté, Mah Kouyaté, Kerfala Kanté, Babani Koné and Oumou Dioubaté.
While playing with Ursel Schlicht's Ex Tempore, he felt the need to expand the tonal possibilities of the balafon and created a chromatic instrument, allowing him to play any genre of music in any key.
Balla was awarded the 2010 Massachusetts Cultural Council's Artist Fellowship for the Traditional Arts and performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His music has been recorded and archived at the Library of Congress in DC. In 2012 he received an Apprenticeship grant to begin teaching his son the Djeli repertoire on the balafon.