Driving collective polyrhythms, blazing frontline horns, and virtuosic kora stylings collide, bridging Mandé music and culture with the sounds of Black London, while the dreamy landscapes of South India fuse with Soul, Jazz, and Electronic influences.

The concert features an opening set by Shilpa Ananth, Indian vocalist, songwriter, and performing artist.

Balimaya Project uses the repertoire and instrumentation of the Mandé peoples of Senegal and Mali as the bridge to bring the folkloric West African music together with jazz and the sounds of Black London. Led by composer/arranger and leading UK-based Djembe player, Yahael Camara Onono, Balimaya Project creates unique and exciting music that seeks to reclaim their ancestral culture and music and the fast rising band have made quite an impression at home and abroad!

The word “Balimaya” comes from the Maninka language and means the essence of kinship. In Mandé society, the ideology of kinship is engrained in the moral fabric of its people. Family ties aren’t 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 reconnecting with traditional Mandé music and culture.

Listen to the music:

Listen to Shilpa Ananth here:

Balimaya Project

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. Yahael and the 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 has 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 on the mainstage at festivals and headlined shows across the UK and Europe, including We Out Here!, Cully Jazz, Nue Jazz,_ Brainchild Fest_, Supersonic Jazz, Cross the Tracks, Thé Barbican, and End Of the Road to name a few.

Since Wolo So’s release, Balimaya Project has been included in other high-profile reviews and has 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 won the best newcomer category. Wolo So was cited as one of the top ten global music albums of the year by the Guardian and many other publications.

The bands new project to be released in collaborative partnership between Marathons New Soil and Jazz re:freshed, ‘When the Dust Settles’ is set to raise the bar. The first single released in August 2022 has already got publications like Clash buzzing with anticipation yet, the core values remain the same, the upliftment of Mandé 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.

Shilpa Ananth

Shilpa Ananth is an Indian vocalist, songwriter, and performing artist based between the US, and the UAE. With a unique sound that fuses the dreamy landscapes of South India with Soul, Jazz, and Electronic influences, Shilpa brings together 3 of the oldest Indian languages – Tamil, Malayalam, and Hindi – with English, creating art that transcends borders and cultures.
After graduating with honors from Berklee College of Music, and releasing a successful debut EP ‘Indian Soul’, Shilpa has recorded and performed with Grammy award-winning composers, A.R.Rahman, Bobby McFerrin, Bill Whalen, Chandrika Tandon, and Javier Limon’s ‘Original Quartet’.
She has also toured extensively with Serbian female vocal group ‘ROSA’, The Berklee Indian Ensemble, Women of the World, and the ‘Bollywood Boulevard’ musical production, performing at several prestigious venues around the US such as Boston Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Apollo Theatre, NJPAC, Wolf Trap, and The John F. Kennedy Center, to name a few.
Shilpa is a featured vocalist on the recently Grammy-nominated album ‘ONA’ by Thana Alexa, as well as an awardee of the title ’Best Independent Artist’ at the Blue Rhymez Entertainment Honorary Awards 2020.
She is also a recipient of both the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Women’s Fund for Media, Music, and Theatre 2020, as well as the Music Grantee 2020, for the Café Royal Cultural Foundation, New York.
Shilpa is currently finishing up her second EP of original music titled ‘Reproduction’, set to release in Summer 2023.