In the wave of emigration following the Second World War, a number of talented Russian musicians settled in Britain. One such was Siberian-born George Orlov, who as an accomplished Russian dancer, singer and balalaika player, channelled his passion for the music of his homeland into the creation of a troupe of British-based dancers and musicians named ‘Troika’, as well as a successful and well-toured group of school children from Bracknell, who produced an number of LPs.
The early 1990s saw a split between the dancers and musicians of Troika, due in no small part to the power of the passions invested in Russian music. The instrumentalists ventured out on their own, calling themselves Balalaika – in recognition of their line-up of 3 prima balalaikas and 1 alto balalaika, backed by piano, guitar and accordion.
Soon after, Paul Holden, an accomplished alto Domra player from the former London Balalaika Ensemble, joined the group, and encouraged them to focus also on the Klezmer music of Eastern Europe.
4 accordionists and 5 guitarists later (and with the inevitable changes in line-up that occur in any long-running group), the current Balalaika represent the most dynamic combination of musicians that has performed under this name, embracing new arrangements and new directions whilst still retaining the serdtze (heart) of its origins.