After studying African music for several years with C.K. Ladzekpo, Balliger played bass in a Nigerian band, O.J. Ekemode and Ashiko. Shortly afterwards she co-founded world beat band, Big City, with guitarist Joe Gore. Big City performed original music influenced by afro-beat, highlife, South African styles, funk, and Latin music. Balliger and Gore composed the music and J.H. “Tommy” Tompkins wrote poetic, political lyrics.
Musicians during the core period for the band included Robin Balliger – bass, Joe Gore – guitar, Roberto “Bo” Razón – guitar, tres, timbales, and percussion, Stan Moore – congas and percussion, David Foston – drums, Danny Bittker – saxophones and steel pan, and Kathleen Maguire – lead vocals. Big City became one of the most popular bands in the Bay Area from about 1984-86 and was the leader of the “world beat” movement, along with The Looters. Big City played many benefits and rallies including an anti-apartheid event on Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley. Unfortunately, Big City never released an album. The band had interest from Island Records and many major labels, but a record deal never materialized.
Changes were made and a second version of the band included lead vocalist Christa, drummer Brain (who later joined Primus), and Pete Scaturro on keyboards. Big City broke up in about 1987. Balliger and Gore briefly tried a new concept group called Snakewalk. Joe Gore went on to play guitar professionally with several other groups, including major touring artists like P.J. Harvey. In the early 90s, Balliger played with local Afro-Peruvian group MalamboKombo, for the love of the music, and she also put her energy into the underground performance space, Komotion International.
Big City: Beating a Path to a New Trend, Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle, November 5, 1984