Balimaya Project

Balimaya Project

"On their second record, they also prove themselves to be a formidable studio group, capable of moving listeners to introspection as much as joy." - The Guardian

The Balimaya Project story begins in Harlesden, north west London, when a young Yahael Camara Onono first encountered the Mandé drumming of his West African heritage. Born to a Nigerian mother and a Senegalese father, Camara Onono grew up surrounded by the rhythms of the diaspora, while also absorbing the multi-genre lingua franca of London’s hybrid music scenes.


"Even more conceptual and unashamedly ambitious is 'When the Dust Settles,' a big band project featuring a veritable Sundiata Empire-style cast of male musicians ranging in age, each one punching considerable weight, the whole an intentional safe space for black men to mentor, honour, create." - Jazzwise

Given encouragement and a platform by grassroots enterprise Jazz Re:freshed, he assembled a 16-piece band that straddled generations, social circles and backgrounds, but like him were united by their experience of what he calls the “third culture” of second generation migrants. Drawing on the talent and expertise of London-based musicians from Burkina Faso to the Gambia, Balimaya Project sought to engage intentionally with the musical and cultural nuances so often overlooked in the discourse around music from the African continent.

Balimaya Project’s second album When The Dust Settles, released in July 2023, addresses the emotional and the deeply personal too, tapping into the ethos of support and brotherhood baked into the DNA of the project.

A maturation in sound and approach, When The Dust Settles brings Camara Onono’s lived experience to the fore, dealing with the death of his older brother, losing a child, becoming a father, migration, survival and the search for truth. 

In many ways a continuation of the Mandé jazz and musical interplay of the first record, When The Dust Settles also marks a change of direction for the band. Slimmed to the core thirteen members, Camara Onono encouraged a different approach to recording and writing. Rather than entering the studio with a set of rehearsed ideas, much of the album’s music was worked out in session, Camara Onono guiding the process while also leaning on the band members’ specific styles and abilities. A collaborative enterprise to the last, there’s no limit to how far Balimaya Project’s strength of purpose and connection can take them.


AGENT: Agnese Daverio

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