Balimaya Project


People sharing a cultural and musical kinship. One that goes beyond blood ties, but revolves around a history of shared experiences. That’s “Balimaya”, or “the essence of kinship” in the West African Maninka language. It’s also the force that propels sixteen people from Harlesden, London, to forge a musical bond based on integrity, authenticity and inspiration: Balimaya Project.

This big friendly sixteen-headed beast was formed and led by the charismatic Yahael Camara Onono. With Nigerian and Senegalese heritage, he is deeply rooted in African history and its musical instruments and traditions. Starting with a DIY-drum kit of pots and pans, shortly followed by his first West African percussion instrument – the talking drum – given to him by his grandfather, he step by step discovered every musical corner of the African diaspora.

Growing up in the North-Western London, a hard-knocked but culturally rich area, Yahael found power and freedom in music. A way of escaping the hardships of the neighborhood, of dodging the temptations of drugs and criminality. In the meantime, jazz music was on a high rise in the London outskirts. It became one of those rare cases wherein one and one became three…

Yahael gathered a group of likeminded people and put the several creative forces that were brewing in the London landscape together. This collective, or rather brotherhood, fused their shared love for jazz, folkloric West-African Mandé music and the sounds of Black London into a unique, energetic style with a bigger message. Balimaya Project is about “coming together, being emotionally available as young black men in the diaspora is just not celebrated enough. We all rely on each other.”

Go check out this force of nature, this static sphere of energy with at its core Yahael’s djembé. A brotherhood of love and, not to forget, sixteen wonderful musicians turning every venue into a dance hall.


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