Sia Tolno
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Sia Tolno


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In today's show, we meet talented Guinean singer Sia Tolno who fought against the odds and is now winning prizes for her music. - France 24 (TV / France)

The Sierra Leonean and Guinean singer Sia Tolno has been gaining international recognition as one of Africa's best new voices. - BBC (Radio / UK)

Lorsqu’on lit l’histoire tumultueuse de Sia Tolno, on réalise à quel point la musique possède un pouvoir de résilience extraordinaire, transfigurant le destin d’une survivante, en guerrière féroce mais heureuse qui, dès les premières notes de son disque, invite à la fête… - France Inter (Radio / France)

Sia Tolno is being predicted to become a great new African voice. There’s no doubt that the young Guinean has great potential and with a second album that is going to be released internationally, My Life, she will soon be among the top African artists. - R.F.I. (Radio / France)

Backed by clean but lively production, “Odju Watcha” is a funky, mid-tempo number with cyclical, Mandingo guitar licks and soulful backup singers. However, Tolno is the one who really makes the track shine, passionately exhibiting her deep, full voice with intensity. Switching back and forth between a Creole that draws on Kissi and Mendi (native languages from the Kissi people of who Tolno hails from) as well as English, Odju Watcha's lyrics that are suggestively socio-political that a native speaker might be able to decipher better than a regular Toubabe. Nevertheless, Tolno's fervor throughout the track gets her point across that is reminiscent, as cliché as it may sound, like a female Fela. - Afropop Worldwide (Blog / USA)

Young Guinean singer Sia Tolno overcame civil war exile to compose defiantly funky songs championing a better life for African woman and children. Her richly rhythmic tones have been rightfully compared to Miriam Makeba and Tina Tuner (as heard on ‘Blamah Blamah’), and after listening to this, her second album, there’s reason to believe the next decade might belong to female world artists building on the pioneering example of Mexican Lila Downs and Susana Baca (Peru’s forthcoming Minister of Culture). With mesmerising female choruses, catchy dance songs like ‘Dia Ya Leh’, the sensual ‘Malaya’ and the Fela Kuti influenced ‘Polli Polli’, this is an empoweringly feelgood collection. - The List (Press / UK)

Tolno’s strapping, pliable alto is sometimes likened to that of South African singer and activist, Miriam Makeba — and, in grittier moments, to a female version of the percussive Afrobeat groaner Fela Kuti. Tolno’s omnivorous Afropop, which fuses everything from Congolese rumba to contemporary rock and soul, is likewise as prophetic as that of her predecessors. “I’m not the kind of woman who’s afraid of problems,” she asserts over the interlocking melodies and polyrhythms of “Shame Upon U.” “This continent is our mother’s land .?.?. / Africa belongs to us.” - The Washington Post (Press / USA)

With a velvet and gravel voice reminiscent of the great Miriam Makeba. My Life was a collaborationn with French arranger and prog-rock legend François Bréant, who is known of his work with Salif Keita and Thione Seck. My Life blends Afropop, delicate moments of soul and rock, and traditional instruments to match Tolno’s earthy sophistication. - DooBeeDooBeeDoo (A cross-cultural on-line music magazine / USA)


2009: "Eh Sanga" (Lusafrica - 562302)
2011: "My Life" (Lusafrica - 562682)



After “Eh Sanga” in 2009, “My Life” is Guinean singer Sia Tolno’s second album on the Lusafrica label. First, we should point out that the “Life” in question has been no bed of roses. Sia had a violent childhood in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Later, she was forced into exile when the civil war made life there impossible and learned the ropes in the harsh world of Conakry’s nightclubs. Now Sia Tolno’s extraordinary experiences have given us an equally remarkable album. Her vocal talents are extraordinary too and she has been compared to Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone and Tina Turner. The 12 songs on the album were recorded in Mory Kanté’s studio in Conakry with the musicians who accompany her on stage. The arrangements are by François Bréant, famous as the producer of two legends of African music: Thione Seck and Salif Keita. “My Life” sums up the troubled existence of a woman who once dreamed of being a lawyer, and some of its songs burn with all the passion and flamboyance of a courtroom plea, calling for a better life for African women and protection for child victims of abuse, whether in the home or outside it. It also features love songs from the radically sincere Sia, who says herself that her heart is “unreserved”. “My Life” straddles a cultural crossroads where Africa’s Kissi, Mende and Sosoxi languages meet English and Creole, and Mandingo music joins forces with forest chants, funk and rumba in a slice of life that is a celebration of living - a great victory for Sia, who has managed to turn painful experiences into moments of intense joy and pure emotion.

“My Life” tells of this nomadic, stormy, rebellious life made of twists and turns and sudden fast straights. It displays all the affective wealth of a woman who has fought to survive and has had to suffer to create. It reflects her phenomenal ability to adapt to circumstance and different social circles, while refusing any restriction of her freedom. Applied to her art, this gift has allowed her to move freely on the great avenue of African music, paved with the beats of village dances, the rolling rhythms of the ocean, Mandingo harmonic subtleties and the vocal constructions of the forest. Balafon, Hammond organ, sax, Fulani flute, electric guitar, accordion and kalimba form a dazzling, often exuberant and always perfectly executed canvas on which she expresses her unbridled, infectious moods. Sia says she has “no right to be sad” and the joy she conveys on “Blamah Blamah” or “Aya Ye” turns hungry, almost ferocious. She has never given up on either loving or being and slips into sweet melancholy on “Tonia” and “Di Ya Leh”. Meanwhile, memories and consciousness of the present collide and merge. On “Odju Watcha”, the citizen of a continent where rights are flouted and democracy abused speaks out, asking “When will the blood stop flowing?” Her voice soars over the backing of a female choir as if her individual destiny could only be meaningful when weighed together with the fate of all the other women of Africa and the world. Like Sia, many have suffered the domestic violence of “Toumah Toumah” and many will identify with the fighting spirit of “Polli Polli”, where she alludes to a universal truth with these essential words: “Women are the pillar of the nation; educating one makes the world wiser.” Like her elder sisters Miriam Makeba, Angélique Kidjo and Oumou Sangaré, Sia Tolno makes her private battle everyone’s business and turns her joy at fighting fatalism into a generous delight in sharing. “My Life” leaves its listeners stronger and more alive.
In September 2011, at the release of her album “My Life”, Sia Tolno wins the “2011 RFI Discoveries Award”.
Portrait Sia Tolno (English sub-tiles):