Interview with Sally Nyolo
No one has ever been able to do such a balanced mix of traditional and modern sounds , forme member of the Belgian group Zap Mama, the musical planet discovers her in 1997 when she’s declared winner of the prix découverte RFI the music award of the French Radio Station. Her album entitled Tribu released in 1996 remains a masterpiece of reference in the annals of the music world , it stunned by its originality music lovers around the world, selling no less than 300,000 copies. The following albums will only confirm her talent " Multiculti " in 1998, " Beti " in 2000, " Zaïone " in 2002, " Studio Cameroon " in 2006, 2011 " la nuit a Fébé " in 2011 are a true recital of exceptional sounds of an artist definitely established . Winner of the 2012 USA world music award for the song Ombombo , Sally Nyolo is putting the final touches on her upcoming album titled Tiger Run which the release date has to be defined yet . Between 2 flights, she sacrificed an instant of her life to answer our questions, an exercise for which we are eternally grateful to her, her fans around the world will not be disappointed; on the contrary lets read what Sally has told us of her artist life and new projects, her frankness and courtesy will surprise you.
Flashmag :Hello Sally we are delighted to have you as the guest star Flashmag in this December issue, it is a true gift of holidays, for your many fans , the time of this interview our tribune is yours. So without further protocols tell us why did you choose music as a profession? Arriving in France while you were only 13 years old, did you imagine to end up being amusician?
Sally Nyolo : arrived in France at the age of 13 , I absolutely didn’t see myself as a musician in the finish . And I would not say that I chose music as a profession. It is rather the music that chose me. for the record, I fell in the professionals bath replacing offhand a chorister who had appendicitis ... I even asked permission one day to my father, on a train station platform . Fearing his reaction, I stalked on his return from work. I confessed to him that it had been two weeks since I followed my university course from "carbon"only ( an accomplice gave me the photocopies of her notes), because I sang at the Casino de Paris behind the artist Jacques Higelin ... His answer made me what I am today. He said : "My daughter , follow your way , listen to your inner voice and especially do in life what you really want to do."
Flashmag : accompanying renowned artist as Toure Kunda or Jacques Higuelin , you join the Belgian group Zap Mama , one of the musical encounter that will change the course of your career how this meeting happened ? What this period of 90’s represent for you? How it influenced the rest of your musical career?
Sally Nyolo: I had just finished my own studio recording of what would be my first album: Tribu (tribe). I was looking for a co- producer, and distributor, for the record ... I already had a band and we played in Parisian theaters. On this occasion , a friend came to me at the end of a concert, telling me a singer called Marie Daulne, was trying to meet other singers for her band. I wasn’t heckled at the time. Several months passed and I was still doing the listening of my album to everyone I met. And another relationship then told me that Marie Daulne, the lead singer of Zap Mama , would soon come to Paris . And certainly it would be nice that I meet her because she was in the same spirit as me. I listened for the first time a disk acapella of the group Zap Mama and discovered that we were not far away; actually we were in the same search of sound . We met a few weeks later. The first time she saw me, she said, " Sally , you're my root ! " . And we stayed together for a few years for the career that you mention...
Having invested the acapella group Zap Mama would not let me time to work my solo musical project I had just finished recording. So I had to let sleep my work for the experience of singing acapella with Zap Mama. And this was of great wealth, since they brought me back to my first discoveries of music : the songs of the village, the singing in church, simple voice worn as an instrument ...
Flashmag : test and master stroke, Tribu remains a masterpiece of reference in the annals of music with the song " Tam -tam " which is of those that never die ? Where did you get the inspiration to make this album a few little anecdotes on this album that launched your career? Especially since he makes you the winner of RFI discovery in 1997?
Sally Nyolo: The spirit rises and the inspiration comes from a very high awareness of the fragility of the being down here. The loss, too, of those we love . And then to tell ourselves that we will dare. Tamtam means that we will dare to do what was deep within . I wrote the first album Tribu , the onethat contain the title Tam- tam, while I accompanied artists of the French variety. And I wrote in my spare time this album 100% in Beti language. Not finding a producer to take me to the studio , I took the initiative to go record it myself. Unable to find people who could play the rhythms as I wanted then to sound, I decided to play myself and to initiate, teach , drummers to play as I heard these three quarters , the 6 / 8, and the 9/12 , all these three accounts that are not routine of European musicians . I was even the first to use what is called for , the “percu- batteur (percussion beaters ). The simplification of the musical language , I told them : " the feet are the battery " ( bass drum / Charlestone ) and the hands are the skin or wood "( drums, bamboo nkule ... ) . And myself, by the need of transmission which forced me to play as well, I created my own pulse , a sonic universe that became singular and interesting for musicians from very different backgrounds . I could have fun and , as I have fun with people who have always found the key to play my music : Paco Sery , Treefolk Marc, Hervé Samb, Jean- Jacques Milteau ...
Flashmag : Multiculti the second album released in 1998 as the name suggests confirms your artistic melting pot, you are a true north-south boulevard of cultures. However, a question is nagging my mind arrived so young in Europe how did you do to keep your roots and your culture, singing in your vernacular language and playing traditional instruments , when we know that the cultural environment in Europe can be quite classic and formatted to the Western way ?
Sally Nyolo : The arrival in France , very young, was not made alone. I came accompanied by my little family unit : father, mother and brother. This allowed me to keep the mother tongue within the family circle , not to forget . I had a flash one day when arriving in France , I had just let the rest of the family behind me. I was afraid of losing all my bookmarks, and no longer be able to speak the maternal tongue . So I asked the family. It was like a cry from the heart. My mother heard me, and I could continue to practice the language when I needed to talk . It is actually not easy, and we know very well, when you are in cities, to continue to speak a language that we would have spoken if we were in the village. I still talk with her today, yet it’s been a while since we left. She, like me, our vocabulary predates our journey ... We're talking like grandparents once did ... As for traditional instruments, I was interested and I did research, self-taught on the sound, as i’ve done on the tongue. And I started to recycle sounds, to find the similarities , connections , sound transpositions I heard to write my music . This research made me find music that is close to the sound universe, existing in the forest, nature, life that inspire me, are transcribed into the music. I do research in instruments different than conventional instruments : flutials where I learned to put my voice, gourds, kass - kass , the thud , materials and all these sounds that I really popularized in my music.
Flashmag : Beti and Zaïone appeared notably in 2000 and 2002 these opus mark a return to the source the first with a Bikutsi redefined by you while Zaïone the name of your son born the year before mark a pose while expanding your musical horizons with even more daring mixtures and guests, such as your longtime friend Princess Erika , how being a mother has influenced your art and an outlook on life ? And these two albums what do they mean to you? Maturity, or an introspective stop about yourself and your artistic background?
Sally Nyolo : There are no stop ... There is not only one direction , I could follow or stop . Each album is a new challenge, new research, new friends, a new look ... And a new world of sounds. I actually travelled for the album Beti , in my memory , at the root of Bikutsi . It was the voice I heard, child voices that are alone rhythm and message. Zaïone is a travel album. I toured the world at the time I wrote the album. The opening took place quite naturally. I wanted to make my travel sounds with different composers such as Princes Erika Adão Daxalebaradã ... And all those friends who came to the studio like good fairies, while I was waiting for my son ...
Flashmag : In 2005 you made your vows to provide a better environment for artists in your country of origin Cameroon , opening a recording studio in Yaoundé Mount Fébé . Will come from this experience in 2006 an album aptly titled studio Cameroon , was it a way for you to give back a little to your home or simply a desire for you to help those in need? A word about this experience how did you feel ? And is studio Mont Fébé still in business?
Sally Nyolo : There are a lot of things to do in Cameroon. And when I was often asked in the country "what can you do for us? " . I said, " I can do what I can do for myself, recording and producing ." As I am always working , it seemed natural to continue to work with the locals . So I created this work cell to be able to take people like me who like to work and whom I could help discover at the same time . Beyond collective or other one-time projects, I mostly use the studio for my own albums. I did and recorded even a part of Memoires du monde (memories of the world) and Nuit a Fébé (night at Fébé) .
Flashmag : In 2011 " Nuit a Fébé " comes out, it’s your sixth album produced by RCA / Sony Music, with the song Ombomo which will be winner of the World Music Award in the United States in 2012. What has changed in your approach to music, while working with majors as Sony some accuse wrongly or rightly, to format the artists and their music to make a simple commercial product ?
Sally Nyolo : In signing with Sony RCA , for the album The Nuit a Fébé , they were seduced by the production that had been made previously by myself. And completed together, always by mutual agreement and without any sense of sacrifice on my part, for the artistic content. They were quite happy with the ability to realize my productions. A major may simply accompany projects.
Flashmag : since you started you have performed in the biggest stages of the world Africa Asia America Europe and Oceania if you had to give your opinion on different audiences to which you performed any qualifier would you give to each audience and how do you feel whenever you are dealing with these public?
Sally Nyolo : We would like to play more often in Africa, crowded rooms very happy people ... But we are ourselves pleased to find that each different audiences react to the way the message is transmitted. And I'm already very happy to find a loyal audience worldwide. There are no better than the other public. When there is public, all the public are good!
Flashmag : so far the public is eagerly awaiting the release of your seventh album entitled Tiger Run a title that alludes to feline of Asia what does it means ? If we know that the title Kilimanjaro will be one of the leading songs can you tell us what's in store with this new album in its essence and style? What inspired you, on what topics is it based ? A solemn date of its release?
Sally Nyolo : When Tiger Run, the surprise will be daunting . You talk about feline ... All I can say for now is that this is indeed the perception of the feline it embody ... And Kilimanjaro is also one of the tracks on the album Tiger Run . Some favorite themes that I will name : love , life , being, humor, questioning, mind ... The messages will be , and some fetishes places , too! And there will also be a celebration of peace, with surprise guests. The wait will not be very long so I can reveal to you the entire contents of the album. At the moment, it is still in the pipes ... It's coming!
Flashmag : in closing this interview is there a question, a topic that you would like to mention but that alas, we would have failed to highlight? A special word to the place of your fans and what's your agenda of the near future ?
Sally Nyolo: Be ready ... Tiger Run is coming and with it there is my gift to you , my fans!
Flashmag : Sally Nyolo Flashmag and its Readership say thank you for this cordial and open talk
Photos: Pierre Terrasson- Paris
Interviewed by Hubert Marlin Jr.