Issue five of our People of Labrum series very proudly welcomes the incredibly talented Yahael Camara Onono. A percussionist, Djembe player and bandleader of Balimaya Project, who along with his other bandmates are changing the UK jazz scene. They are set to play the internationally acclaimed jazz venue of Ronnie Scott’s later this year and we cannot wait to attend!
Yahael initiated the creation of Balimaya Project in 2019, a 16-piece band whose members are connected through kinship, shared history and passion. As a musical collective, Balimaya Project's musicians are challenging and redefining the UK jazz scene by merging a traditional repertoire and folklore of the Mandé peoples of West Africa together with London's musical landscape, creating reinvigorated sounds and insane energy that is not to be missed. If you can catch them live we implore you to do so!
Balimaya Project joined us for our SS22 show at London Fashion Week back in September where their High Life music evoked an incomparable level of happiness through their drum, vocals and percussion, creating an unforgettable experience. We are blessed to be able to have Yahael and the whole band as part of the Labrum community and invite you to learn a little more about them here:
Foday Dumbuya: Could you explain for the readers how we met?
Yahael Camara Onono: I met Foday a few years ago now, when he reached out about doing a photoshoot with him - but we already knew a lot of mutual friends and even family members. He has grown to be an elder brother to me.
FD: What do you think makes Labrum stand out from other brands?
YCO: I have never seen a fashion house or establishment that really relates to how I feel or truly represents where I’m from. Africa is a big place and I feel like a lot of other companies try to bundle our stories, cultures, modes of expression and walks of life into a monolithic experience.
Labrum, with its authentic focus on Sierra Leonean culture and fabric, is a breath of fresh air. Also, the collections are just fire!
FD: If you work to live, what do you live for?
YCO: I live for the empowerment and education of my (black) community, I live for my culture and it’s valorisation. I live for my family and their safety. I live for myself and those around me.
FD: What does your typical day look like?
YCO: My typical day is never a typical day, but music is a constant.
FD: What inspires you?
YCO: My heritage, my faith, my family and the emotions they bring out of me, fashion, art, landscapes.
FD: What does community mean to you?
YCO: Community is a resource that I can tap into, a space I can sit in. A well of strength and renewal. A backbone. An investment. I could go on …
FD: What do your go-to wardrobe staples look like?
YCO: Ahhh, a go-to staple? Anything that is as comfortable YET as stylish as possible! It’s not an easy look. But at the moment, I would say my go-to is a good jacket and nice trainers, I can work around the rest .. It’s cold!
FD: What are you most proud of?
YCO: I'm proud of 3 things in equal measure - my family, my heritage and my band, Balimaya Project.
FD: What would you say was your career highlight so far?
YCO: My career highlight would be forming the Balimaya project and bringing it into fruition. I’m proud of arranging all my own music without fear of what people would think and organically creating a sound that people are really vibing with.
FD: Anything to add about Labrum? What's your favourite piece that you own?
YCO: Man, Labrum is a breath of fresh air. The whole team. From Fods, to Lauren, to Julian, to Abi, to Aneta. Everyone is so cool and down to earth and self aware and brand aware. This comes across in the thoughtful pieces and processes.
In every garment there is history and depth. They all look so good - every single item I have been generously given is my favourite, I can’t choose!
We are grateful to Yahael for his support and to everyone in Balimaya Project for everything that they brought to the SS22 show.
Go follow Yahael on Instagram: @yahaelco / @balimayaproject and don't forget to check out Balimaya Project's debut album Wolo So. Big up for changing the narrative of the UK jazz scene with your music!
If you have any questions for the Labrum team you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Instagram @labrumlondon.