Sally Nyolo was born in the village of Eyen-Meyong, near the town of Tala, in the Lékié region of southern Cameroon. She moved to Paris, France at the age of 13 and has been living there ever since. Sally’s musical voyage initiated in 1982 when she started singing as a backing vocalist with various Africa and French artists such as; Jacques Higelin, Sixun, Nicole Croisille, Touré Kunda, and others… She was very much in demand and in 1993 he first major break presented itself – she was invited to join the Belgian group Zap Mama for their world tour. During her time with Zap Mama she recorded the albums “Sabsylma” and two “Live” albums (“in Japan” and “at Montreux”).
In 1996, Sally Nyolo recorded her first solo album, entitled “Tribu” (Tribe), released on the Lusafrica Label. All the tracks were sung in her native language – Eton – and were composed and written by Sally except for “Tamtam” which she co-wrote with the Malagasy musician Sylvin Marc.
1997: RFI Prize “Découvertes”
In June of 1997 Sally Nyolo was awarded the Discovery prize by Radio France International. The jury, presided by French drummer, of Ivorian origin, Manu Katché, gave this recognition to her album “Tribu”, for its artistic merits, and to Sally Nyolo, as one of the most promising talents of the new generation of African musicians.
Sally returned to the studio in the spring of 1998 to begin work on her second album entitled “Multiculti”. Released in May of the same year, her second album not only confirmed the young singer’s vocal talents, it also revealed her deep passion for ‘métissage’ (musical and cultural fusion). The young Cameroonian has taken traditional African rhythms and successfully mixed them with other more modern styles, reinventing her musical heritage for the current times. Sally’s hot fusion sound certainly proved a major hit with French, European and North American audiences during her extensive touring for the promotion of the album. In December on her return to Paris after her tour the French pop star Jacques Higelin invited Sally to perform as a featured guest at his concert at the “Cité de la Musique” in Paris.
In January 2000, Sally released her third album “Beti” (named after an African tribe). The new album, which was partly recorded in Cameroon, revolved around Bikutsi, a traditional rhythm from the forest region of central Cameroon. With her catchy new Bikutsi sound, Sally embarked upon a new tour that this time included shows in her homeland at the “Rencontres Musicales” Festival in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé.
In 2002 Sally released her fourth album, “Zaïone” (named after the son she had had the previous 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 from the album. Sally toured extensively in 2003 and 2004 reaching new fans with shows in Japan at the Quattro club in Tokyo. After her show in London at the African Music Festival the Brazilian singer Martinho da Vila invited her to duet with him on his album “Conexoes”. In March 2005, she lent 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 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”
Sally Nyolo releaed her sixth and most recent album in May 2011 (and her first on RCA/SonyMusic), entitled “La nuit à Fébé”. The collection of songs was put together in France and Cameroon and included some of the artist’s long-standing friends, including the Ivorian 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 the song “Stolen by Night”, 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 flavor to her songs.
In 2012 – Sally Nyolo was awarded the USA Songwriting Competition World Music Award for her song “OMBOMO”! This encouraged her to start working on a new album project.
In 2013 – Sally Nyolo received the highest honor any artist can receive in her native Cameroun – she has received the “décoration comme Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Valeur” By the president of the country as a recognition “from her whole country for her efforts in promoting their music and culture around the world ». She dedicated much of the year to recording a new album project to be released in 2014. This year she also toured internationally – including an immensely successful concert for the closing ceremony at one of Germany’s most popular World Music festivals in Dortmund on September 1st, 2013.
In 2014 – Sally Nyolo finished work on her album – TIGER RUN – and signed with the English label World Music Network (two time winner of the WOMEX award for Best World Music label) for its release.
In 2016 – she produced the album MVETKORA, with the great Djeli Moussa Diawara. The project was presented at Afro-Pfigsten Festival London African Music Festival. And is distributed online on all the main platforms.
In 2017 she composed and produced “Cameroun“, an instrumental album by RFI Instrumental, for musical illustrations in audiovisual productions.