Paris-based Cameroonian chanteuse returns to her native land to create her own unique rough guide to the country’s roots music.
Cameroon-born Sally Nyolo has lived in Paris since she was a teenager, finding fame first as a backing singer for the likes of Touré Kunda, then as part of world music favourites Zap Mama, and latterly as an award-winning solo artist.
Enriched and artistically unshackled by that success, Nyolo has created Studio Cameroon, which sees her return to the capital of her native country, Yaoundé, where she opened a small, modest tin-roofed studio in order to showcase an impressive array of local talent. The result: a wonderfully laid-back, organic, lively and infectious set of tunes.
Nyolo herself features three times as a credited performer — in her own name on the catchy Bikoutsi, which has some beautiful interweaving female vocal harmonies and gentle changes of rhythmic pace; the opener Souris-moi with Guéyanka, all atmospheric call and response vocals and scratchy electric guitar; and on the funky gospel number Pek, which is performed with a sedate spirituality alongside the state choir, La Voix Du Cenacle.
As for the rest of what’s on offer, it’s a case of take your pick depending on which shade of joyful Afro-folk music most appeals; from the sparse back-beat of tracks such as Chantal and Mote Ane (the former featuring the joyously childlike vocals from the Bidjoï Sisters, the latter a hypnotic male call and response that could almost be North African in provenance) to fuller, ensemble grooves such as the down and dirty funk of the Edmond Fils Nkoa Band, or the more familiar strains of the Makossa dance style in La Vie by Orchestre D’Esono. There really is something here for every fan of rooted West African music. And the element that links all the above, in fact all but two of the fourteen songs? Sally Nyolo has written or co-written them.
She’s a remarkably talented lady, and she has produced an understatedly magical recording.