Sally Nyolo

Country : Cameroon
Language : Eton / French / English
Category : Composer / Female Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : world music / african music
This page is no longer in service. Please go to for up to date coverage.

Sally Nyolo comes from the South of Cameroon. She was born in the Eton Land, in the small village of Eyen-Meyong, near the town of Tala, in the Lékié region. She left her homeland at the age of 13 to settle in Paris where she has lived since. Sally built up her professional experience from 1982 to 1994, first as a backing-singer working with numerous French or Africa artists, Jacques Higelin, Sixun, Nicole Croisille, Touré Kunda, and plenty of others…

Then after joining the group Zap Mama in 1993, for their world tour. With Zap Mama she recorded the album "Sabsylma", and two live records (in Japan, and at Montreux). In 1996, Sally Nyolo recorded her first solo album, entitled "Tribu" (Tribe), published by the Lusafrica Label. All the tracks, sung in Eton (her native tongue), were written and composed by Sally, with the exception of "Tamtam" which she co-wrote with Sylvin Marc.

1997: RFI Prize "Découvertes"

In June 97, Sally Nyolo received the Discovery 97 prize awarded by Radio France Internationale. The jury, presided over by drummer Manu Katché, afforded this recognition to the album "Tribu", for its artistic merits, and to Sally Nyolo, as one of the most promising hopes of the new generation of African musicians.

And Sally Nyolo soon went on to prove that she was more than just a promising hope. Sally returned to the studio in the spring of 98 to begin work on a second album entitled " Multiculti". Released in May of this year, Sally's second album not only confirms the young singer's vocal talent, it also reveals a deep passion for 'métissage' (musical and cultural fusion). The young Cameroonian has taken traditional African rhythms and successfully mixed them with other more modern genres, reinventing her musical heritage for the 1990's. Sally's hot fusion sound certainly proved a major hit with French audiences, when the young Cameroonian star kicked off her latest tour on May 28th at the legendary New Morning in Paris.

Between August and September 98 Sally Nyolo concentrated on her international career, playing a series of dates across the United States and Canada (where she had already built up a considerable following of fans). When she returned to Europe, Sally embarked upon an extensive tour of Spain and L'Ile de la Réunion, then performed a further series of concerts in France.

In December '98 legendary French pop star Jacques Higelin invited Sally to perform as a special guest star at his concert at the "Cité de la Musique" in Paris.

Sally returned to the music news in January 2000, releasing her third album "Beti" (named after an African tribe). Sally's new album, which was partly recorded in Cameroon, revolved around Bikutsi, a traditional rhythm from the forest regions of central Cameroon. Following the release of her album, Sally embarked upon a mini-tour in the spring of 2000, taking her catchy Bikutsi sound to France, then going on to play to audiences in Germany (in May) and Quebec (in July). But before that Sally brought the house down in her homeland when she performed at the "Rencontres Musicales" in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé (May 1st - May 7th).

The singer kept up a hectic tour schedule throughout the summer of 2001, touring France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland.

2002: "Zaïone"

Sally returned to the studio in 2002 and her fourth album, "Zaïone" (named after the son she had had the previous year), was released in October of that year. Broadening her musical horizons, Sally mixed her traditional bikutsi with other musical styles on Zaïone and the album included duos with a number of French singers including Nicoletta, Nina Moratto, Muriel Moreno and Jean-Jacques Milteau. Teaming up with her Cameroonian friend Princess Erika, Sally also enjoyed a brief flirtation with reggae on the song"Jah Know", which was chosen as the first single release from the album. Sally played a series of concerts in Paris at the end of November 2002 and this year the ? star should be hitting the UK in February for a major tour.

After four concerts in Paris in late November at the Opus Café, she kicked off a tour of Germany and Switzerland in March 2003, before jetting off to Japan where she played at the Quattro club in Tokyo on March 19 as part of the Francophone Week initiative. Sally returned to her native country in May with a series of concerts in Douala as part of the Douala Massao international festival of female singing. Her international career was further boosted in 2004 when she performed in Italy, Belgium and also London at the African Music Festival. And the Brazilian singer Martinho da Vila invited her to duet with him on his album "Conexoes".

In March 2005, she leant a hand to a David Murray production, "Pouchkine", which was performed at the Banlieues Bleues festival in the Paris region. Then in June, she opened a studio in Yaoundé and set up her own production company, Tribal Production, with the aim of developing the Cameroon music scene.

2006: "Studio Cameroon"

In December 2006, Sally Nyolo released her "Studio Cameroon" compilation, an album which had been a personal project of hers for almost eight years. The release of this album marked a new stage in the Cameroonian singer’s career, putting her on the map as a producer and talent-spotter. In 1998, while on a tour of her homeland, presenting songs from her second album, "Multiculti", Sally had been struck by the poor conditions her fellow musicians were working under and began wondering what she could do to help her compatriots. She promised to return and set up a recording studio in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé, and produce local artists there. Eight years later, after overcoming numerous obstacles, Sally proved she was a woman of her word, opening her recording venue up on Yaounde’s Mont Fébé.

The singer refused to turn her studio into a commercial venture, using it instead as a vital means of producing traditional musicians from the region. On her "Studio Cameroon" compilation, Sally turned herself into a veritable talent-discoverer, tracking down hard-to-find musicians and unearthing up-and-coming young talents she believed in. "Studio Cameroon", an innovative and audacious project, brought together a mix of artists who bucked the trend for rhythm boxes that had become all the rage on Yaoundé’s urban music scene. Sally’s main aim on "Studio Cameroon" was to show off the incredibly rich rhythmic and instrumental heritage of her multi-cultural homeland - and she more than accomplished her mission, amassing an impressive musical mix on the album!

The "Studio Cameroon" project was filmed by François Bergeron and turned into a fascinating documentary.

2011: “La nuit à Fébé”

It was five years before fans of the Cameroonian singer got to hear a new creation. Sally Nyolo brought out her sixth solo album in May 2011 (and her first with RCA/SonyMusic), under the title “La nuit à Fébé”. The collection was put together in France and Cameroon and gathered some of the artist’s long-standing friends, including the Ivoirian drummer Paco Sery and the assiko ambiance maker Robert Ngwé. Sally also invited along Guizmo, one of the members of the French group Tryo, and the two paired up on a duet, “Miss Silicone”.

The album features “Stolen by Night”, a track written by her compatriot Blaise N’Djéhoya and composed by the saxophonist David Murray as a tribute to the Afro-Russian writer Alexander Pushkin, who was the first mixed race man to enter the court of Tsar Pierre 1st. Singing in French, Eton (her mother tongue) and English, Sally takes her listeners on a wide range of journeys. Although she is attached to bikutsi, she enjoys exploring other musical genres, lending a cosmopolitan flavour to her songs.

On 3 November, Sally Nyolo was at Café de la Danse in Paris, and then back in the French capital to give a concert on the Petit Bain barge on 9 February 2012.

December 2012

© RFI Musique
Any reproduction of this website - either whole or partial - is strictly prohibited without the agreement of the authors.