Balimaya Project

Genres: Jazz, World
Contact: Sarah Liversedge Platz




Balimaya Project was formed in 2019 by percussionist Yahael Camara Onono, a second-generation Londoner whose rich West African musical heritage, coupled with his musical experiences in the UK, inspired him to bridge the gap between the diaspora and West Africa.

This group is built on the foundation of forging musical and cultural ties, from a place of integrity, authenticity and inspiration. Balimaya Project uses the repertoire and instrumentation of the Mande peoples of Senegal and Mali as the bridge to bring the folkloric West African music together with Jazz and the sounds of Black London, to create something unique and exciting.

The word "Balimaya" comes from the Maninka language and means the essence of kinship. In Mande society, the ideology of kinship is engrained in the moral fabric of its people. Family ties aren’t just limited to blood relations. The concept of extended family created by marriage, cousinage, shared history within ethnicities and deeds done for one another is complex but adhered to with great pride. This extended family model is what inspires Balimaya Project’s repertoire and mission: to show that even though they were, for the most part, born in inner city London, their roots have not been forgotten and they have been innovative in their approach to reclaiming said culture and music.

Yahael and majority of the band’s unique position as young UK-born men of African origin gives them a unique insight into what it truly takes to make an ensemble like this work and the results have spoken for themselves! Their debut album Wolo So was released in July of 2021 and has had a huge impact on the UK music scene and beyond.

Balimaya Project have featured on prominent radio shows, playlists and editorials from London and Toronto to Tokyo and Brazil. ‘One of the most important releases this year’ said renowned tastemaker Giles Peterson whilst playing one of the band’s tracks on his BBC 6 show. The band has played mainstage at festivals across the UK, including We Out Here!, Brainchild Fest and End Of the Road to name a few. The highlight of 2021 was a sold-out headline show at the Barbican’s Milton Court, which received a 5-star review.

Balimaya Project have collaborated with brands like Converse in social media campaigns. They were most recently featured with high-profile, London-based designer Labrum London as a focal point in their highly celebrated London Fashion Week Show.

Since Wolo So’s release, Balimaya Project have been included in other high-profile reviews and have recently been nominated as one of the Albums of the year in the Africa and Middle East category by the prestigious Songlines Magazine and also cited as one of the top ten global music albums of the year by the Guardian. The evening standard also did a great piece on the band and its reviving of the big band aesthetic and how effective it’s been. The band have also just won the prestigious Songlines Magazine’Newcomer of the year’ award this year.

In 2022, the band have so much in-store, international shows and other projects from recordings to brand partnerships and so much more, but the core values remain the same, the upliftment of Mande heritage and culture, a safe space for young black men to explore their culture and to create music that will inspire others to delve deeper into what it means to be who you are.


Related news

Balimaya Project Live at the Barbican
New Signing: Balimaya Project Creator Yahael Camara-Onono