A 16-piece supergroup of driving polyrhythms, blazing horns and virtuosic kora, Balimaya Project delivers an amazingly impressive wall of sound in a fantastic flow of energy and musical unity. Translating as the essence of kinship in Mandé’s Maninka language, Balimaya Project aims to articulate the complex experiences of being children of the African diaspora in the UK.
Led by composer/arranger/perfussionist Yahael Camara Onono, a second-generation Londoner with a rich West African musical heritage, the group aims to fuse the sounds of the London jazz scene with the traditional repertoire and folklore of the Mandé peoples of Senegal and Mali, and in turn “connect the music’s contemporary and ancestral forbearers”.
“I wanted to form something musical that went beyond what we know as a band but be a place which was closer to a support network. It’s become a brotherhood,” said Onono, who formed Balimaya Project in 2019.
The evening opens with a set by Shilpa Ananth (below), 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, Ananth graduated from Berklee College of Music and has since recorded, performed and toured extensively; her second EP is due this summer.
The Arts Center’s Executive Artistic Director Bill Bragin said: “The Arts Center has a deep interest in artists working across musical styles and cultural traditions, which especially reflects the diverse nature of the UAE as well as NYUAD’s diverse community. Both Balimaya Project’s and Shilpa Ananth’s music fits that description – they share an interest in jazz, while mixing it with other styles that reflect their cultural heritage and transnational upbringing … their music is compelling, original and personal, and feels like a perfect expression of the way we live in the UAE”.
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