Artist Profiles: Sally Nyolo

Sally Nyolo

Sally Nyolo was born in a small village called Eyen-Meyong, in southern Cameroon. At the age of thirteen, she moved to France and lived in Paris for many years. A former member of Zap Mama, Sally established herself from 1982 to 1994 as a respected session vocalist by performing and recording with many artists such as Jacques Higelin, Sixun, Nicole Croisille, Toni Childs, Princess Erika, Toure Kunda and many others.

Sally began her solo career by composing the music for a radio series for ‘France Culture’ National Public Radio called “Le Jeune Joseph,” which was an adaptation by Jacques Taroni of Thomas Mann’s novel. The following year she was asked to work on French producer Gerard Louvain’s movie soundtrack Ashakara. She delivered an original composition which she recorded for the soundtrack called “Semengue.” By 1993, Sally had her own ensemble and had gained a tremendous reputation for her performances in and around Paris.Around that time she was invited to bring her band to England for the WOMAD Festival, one of the most prestigious venues for world music artists.

After WOMAD, Sally’s career began to develop rapidly. She recorded four songs for Peter Gabriel’s label Real World, including “Djini Djome” which was produced by Dave Bottril. The tracks were released on Around The World In Twenty Tracks (RealWorld) and Strictly Worldwide (Piranha). Soon after the Real World sessions, Sally met up with Zap Mama lead singer Marie Daulne. Marie claimed that Sally was “her roots,” feeling a cultural bond that led her to ask Sally to join the group. The two immediately became friends and launched into an adventurous new level of success. Sally joined Zap Mama in 1993.

Sally’s composition “The Mamas of the Mamas” appeared on Zap Mama’s second recording Sabsylma (Luaka Bop). The result of that release was a world tour which took them to the U.S. three times. With this new exposure, Sally added a song of her own to Paul Aster & Wayne Wang’s Blue in the Face in 1995. Sally’s song “To My Baby” was a superb contribution to the film score. The movie featured Harvey Keitel, Madonna, Michael J. Fox, Lou Reed, Roseanne and Jim Jarmush.

In 1996, in the midst of a heavy touring schedule, Sally recorded her first solo album Tribu for label Lusafrica, which was released in 1997 and received the RFI World Music Award.

Nyolo returned to Cameroon, where she opened a studio, with the intention to produce and promote Cameroonian music. She produced Studio Cameroon, released in 2006 by World Music Network.

Nyolo sings in various languages, including French, Arabic, English, Spanish, and her native Eton.


Tribu (Tinder, 1996)
Multiculti (Tinder, 1998)
Beti (2000)
Zaione (Lusafrica, 2002)
Studio Cameroon (Riverboat, 2006)
Memoire du Monde (2007)
La Nuit a Febe (2011)
Tiger Run (Riverboat, 2014)


Artist Profiles: Richard Bona

Richard Bona

Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo, better known as Richard Bona, was born October 28, 1967 in Minta, a village in central Cameroon. From the moment of Richard Bona’s birth, music has been the center of his world. He is the grandson of a famous percussionist and singer.

Beginning with the music his mother and four sisters sang in church every Sunday, Bona gained an early passion for sounds and harmony. He joined the choir at age 5, and soon Bona’s family realized they had a musical prodigy among them. Richard has a highly unusual gift — he only has to look intently at someone playing, and he can learn the instrument.

Not blessed with traditional instruments, Bona found creative ways of making instruments for himself, including reed flutes, a large balafon, wooden percussion instruments and a 12-string guitar. “I hung around the workshops where they repaired bicycles,” Bona recalls, “and as soon as the guys turned their backs, I’d put brake-cables in my pocket for my prototype.”

Rehearsing for eight to 12 hours per day, Bona honed his skills. He performed as a singer and a multi-instrumentalist in a range of religious ceremonies, and soon he became known beyond his village for his musical virtuosity. At age 11, Bona went with his father to Duala, sea-port city with nearly 2 million residents. Bona quickly found his first job, as a guitarist with a dance group.

In 1980, the French owner of a local club gave him the task of setting up a small, jazz-inspired group (with soul-jazz and jazz-rock leanings). Meanwhile, he entrusted Bona with a collection of some 500 vinyl albums. Through these albums, Bona discovered the essence of jazz -the freedom, complexity and virtuosity of the music invented by the American descendants of his forebears. “That’s how I came across the Jaco Pastorius album, the first one, the one with his name on it (Jaco Pastorius, Columbia, 1976), and I never looked back,” Bona says. “When I started listening to it, I wondered for a moment if I’d got the speed wrong – I thought I was playing it at 45 rpm instead, and I even took a look. Before Jaco, I’d never thought of playing bass.”

Cleary, the influence was strong enough to hold. In 1989, when Bona was 22, he left Africa for Paris, where he quickly built a solid reputation. He played with Didier Lockwood, Marc Fosset and Andre Ceccarelli, and took part in studio sessions with leading musicians such as Manu Dibango, Salif Keita and Joe Zawinul (My People, 1992.)

In 1995, Bona followed the footsteps of singer Angelique Kidjo, whom he also accompanied, by crossing the ocean and settling in New York. He quickly hooked up with Zawinul again, and he was invited to accompany Zawinul on a world tour. Bona’s talents continue to gain notice in the world music community. The list of musicians who have played with Bona looks like the roster from the musicians’ hall of fame.

Bona also joined forces with Zawinul again in 1998, when he sang and played bass and percussion on Zawinul’s world tour; and when Bona played the same role on Zawinul’s album, Faces & Places. In addition, Branford Marsalis recommended Bona to play on the first compact disc by Frank McComb, the singer from the Buckshot Le Fonque group (the funk side of the elder of the Marsalis Brothers). The album was produced by Columbia, and a few months later, the label gave Richard the chance to create his first album as the leader.

Bona’s first three albums – Scenes from My Life, Reverence and Munia – allowed listeners to discover a great storyteller and musician. His style blends a horde of influences, including jazz, bossa nova, pop, afro-beat, traditional song and funk. Munia (The Tale) features Malian star Salif Keita as a guest. Keita cowrote the track “Kalabankoro.”

This unique combination has given Bona’s music a new dimension, one that is unexplored yet genuinely universal. As Bona says, “I play the bass, but I am not just a jazz bass player.” Bona’s fans around the world have their own moniker derived from his unique style, referring to him as “The African ‘Sting.’ ”

On Tiki (2006), recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Bona surrounded himself with old friends and special guests, including ATN Stadwijk, Vinnie Colauita, Susheela Raman, Djavan, Mike Stern and Gil Goldstein.

The collaboration Toto Bona Lokua features Richard Bona along with Gerald Toto and Lokua Kanza. They have released two albums.


Scenes from My Life (Columbia Jazz, 1999)
Reverence (Columbia Jazz, 2001)
Munia (Universal Music France, 2003)
Toto Bona Lokua, with Gerald Toto and Lokua Kanza (No Format!, 2004)
Tiki (Universal Music France, 2005)
The Ten Shades of Blues (Universal Jazz France, 2009)
Bonafied (Universal Jazz France, 2013)
Heritage, with Mandekan Cubano (Qwest Records, 2016)
Bona Makes You Sweat (Universal Jazz France, 2008)
Bondeko, with Gerald Toto and Lokua Kanza (No Format!, 2017)


Dom Flemons to Release Tribute to Black Cowboys

Dom Flemons – Black Cowboys

African American multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons will release his new album titled Black Cowboys on March 23, 2018 on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

The album includes songs and poems connected with the thousands of African American pioneers who helped form the United States of America. The physical edition contains a 40-page booklet with wide-ranging notes and photos.

Buy Black Cowboys


Bombay Rickey’s Cinematic Surf

Bombay Rickey – Electric Bhairavi

Bombay Rickey – Electric Bhairavi (Cowboys & Indian, 2018)

Electric Bhairavi is a wild musical party where operatic vocals meet surf guitar along with Indian music, chicha and Spaghetti Western influences. There is also a quirky John Zorn-esque vibe to the whole album.

The band is based in New York City and features Kamala Sankaram on vocals; Drew Fleming on guitars; Jeff Hudgins on reeds; Gil Smuskowitz on bass; and Brian Adler on percussion.

The highlight of the album is the piece “Electric Bhairavi.”

Buy Electric Bhairavi


Artist Profiles: Kristo Numpuby

Kristo Numpuby – Photo by Samy Nja Kwa

Born in Paris and raised in Eseka in Cameroon, Kristo Numpuby plays assiko music, the traditional rhythm of the southern Cameroon forests, using a guitar, knives, forks and spoons and empty bottles for the percussion. Singer, bassist and guitarist, the Afro-Parisian draws on the rhythms of the forest as inspiration for his compositions.

At the age of 8, he began composing songs for children, and took an interest in percussion. “In the village, there were always evenings with musicians, either baptisms, marriages or wakes,” he said. They became opportunities for me to admire the percussionists, playing bare-chested with their big muscles.? The education that his musician-grandmother gave him made Kristo a boy with a great interest in anything musical. “My grandmother, Ngueba, ran a bar in Eseka, he explains. “We listened to lots of different music all day long?classical, jazz, rhythm and blues, James Brown, Afro-Cuban, rumba from Zaire, highlife, makossa and biguine. You could say that I was totally immersed in a very colorful music world.”

Kristo received his first guitar at age 12. He began playing all the hits he heard on the radio. Two years later, he was a guitarist in one of the four groups in his school. At 18, he formed a trio that played only his own compositions. The three musicians constantly played each other?s instruments during their concerts. He was the lead singer in a group that mostly played assiko music, which no young people usually played.

Kristo says, “My buddies didn’t understand how a guy like me who spent his vacations in Paris was still interested in village music. Even though I liked disco and all the music in fashion, that music still fascinated me. Why? I can’t tell you. But I found real pleasure in playing Jean Bikoko, Medjo Me Nsom and Dikoum Bernard, and to finger the guitar strings like them in an unusual way. The assiko musicians and dancers have a special knowledge and a particular technique. I liked their style of music because it was different. But I was just as interested in classical technique as in that of the forest guitarists.”

In 1990, Kristo Numpuby got back into the music he had somewhat left behind. “After finishing high school in Duala, I went to the University of Yaunde, before heading off to Paris in 1986. I wanted to be a TV director. There were such beautiful posters in the metro and TV ads that left you breathless: “Generation Mitterrand, Citroen cars, Dim stockings?I was completely subjugated. There were advertising schools everywhere. I got a technical qualification and then for your years I was an advertising wonder kid. This is how I wound up in the studio to oversee the recording of advertisements that I was responsible for. We had a problem finding musicians. I reacted quickly, and Morning Limbe, a blues piece composed in 1982, became the soundtrack.”

Eventually, music replaced advertising. Kristo began hanging out in recording and rehearsal studios, and became a studio bass player. “In December of 94, I was touring in Ghana with an African star for the Panafest. At the hotel, I ran into Stevie Wonder. I had about 20 of his records at home. When we finished talking, he asked me if I had some work of mine he could listen to. I had nothing to show him from what I had been doing musically. That’s when I understood that I had to record my compositions.

After his first album, Assiko City (Lon Yes/Night & Day) in 1997, Kristo Numpuby developed a faithful following in Paris, and played the prestigious New Morning venue that December. The following year, in 1998, he played on the radio and television show, ?Africa Live,? and took part in the Afro-Pfingsten Festival in Winterthur, in Switzerland. A number of his instrumental cuts were used as soundtracks for radio and television clips.

On stage, Kristo varies in style from sharp traditional African rhythms to the folk sounds of African-Americans, played on acoustic instruments. This singer-guitarist, accompanied by a percussionist bottle player and two other musicians, is one of those artists who excites and surprises his audience at every concert.


Assiko City (Lon Yes/Night & Day, 1997)
An Sol Mè (Lon Yes/Night & Day, 2001)
Brassens en Afrique (Lon Yes/Mosaic Music, 2007)


Flamenco guitarist Daniel Casares to Showcase Picassares in the United States

Daniel Casares performing ‘Picassares’ at Flamenco Eñe – Photo by Jesús Domínguez

Acclaimed Spanish flamenco guitarist and composer Daniel Casares is set to perform in New York on March 24, 2018 at Joe’s Pub. Casares will present his latest work, Picassares, inspired by the paintings of the Malaga-born genius Picasso. “To me it is an opportunity to show instrumental flamenco and to claim the sound of the guitar, initiatives like Flamenco Eñe give us life,” said Daniel Casares. The next day, Casares will also participate in the Flamenco Rave in Miami.


Artist Profiles: Henri Dikongue

Henri Dikongue

Henri Dikongue was born December 6, 1967 in Duala, Cameroon. Henri Dikongué grew up as part of a family of musicians. He was raised in the capital city, Yaunde, where he learned acoustic guitar from his uncle. His grandmother brought him to a Protestant choir where he first learned to sing. Like all young people in Cameroon, Dikongué was surrounded by the vibrant sound of makossa, a bubbling dance rhythm that blends guitar lines with unstoppable percussion.

It took years of soul searching before he was willing to devote himself to a life in music. After going to Switzerland to live with his sister, who had emigrated there, he soon became disenchanted with the Swiss system and moved to Bensacon, a French city near the Swiss border, where he began to study law. Dikongué obtained a law degree, but soon discovered that music was his true passion, so he joined the pan-African music and Theater Company Masques & Tam-Tam. There he met singer Alfred M’Bongo and percussionist Manuel Wandji, both of whom would become very influential in his career. He then joined Banthu Marantha, a South African vocal group for which he composed several songs. Dikongué moved to Paris in 1989 where he became a devout student of classical guitar. All the while he maintained strong connections with the creative African music scene in Paris. His first album, “Wa,” was praised by critics who saw him as a representative of the new generation of African musicians, creating melodic music that is intelligent, poetic and innovative.


Wa (1995)
C’est la vie – This is life (Tinder, 1997)
N’oublie jamais – Never forget (2000)
Mot’a Bobe (Tinder, 2000)
Biso Nawa (2005)
Diaspora (Buda Musique, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Gino Sitson

Gino Sitson

Gino Sitson is a Cameroonian who is considered a jazz singer, yet sings mostly in his native Bamileke language. His phrasing reminds one of Bobby McFerrin or Al Jarreau.

He is the only singer incorporating indigenous African polyphonic technique into the jazz vocal tradition, and not only that, his musical, as opposed to lyrical, compositions constantly plays with both traditions.

While living in France, major musical names like Manu Dibango, Jorge Ben, Papa Wemba, Ray Lema and John Williams all employed him to take a lead singing role in their projects.

Gino Sitson moved to New York City in 2001.


Vocal Deliria
Song Zin’… Vocadelic Tales (2000)
Bamisphere, with Ron Carter (Polyvocal Records, 2005).
Way to Go (Alessa Records, 2009)
Listen – Vocal Deliria II (Buda Musique, 2013)
VoiStrings (Buda Musique, 2013)
Body & Voice (Buda Musique, 2016)


Artist Profiles: Francis Mbappe

Francis Mbappe

A native of Cameroon, Francis Mbappe is a talented bassist who has graced the stage with musical greats such as Herbie Hancock, Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti, Ashanti Tokoto, Francois Louga, and Ernesto Djedje.

By the age of nineteen Mbappe was bass player and musical director for Manu Dibango’s band, with whom he toured extensively from 1982 until 1990. He appears on the albums Surtension, Abele Dance, Baobab Sunset and the renowned Wakafrika release which also featured Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, and King Sunny Ade.

Upon arrival to New York City in the 1990s, Francis started the band FM Tribe with some of the most exciting, innovative players around. With funk in the conception, rock in the attitude, swing in the movement and soul in the spirit, Francis Mbappe led his band FM Tribe through the New York City music circuit and recorded a stylistically revolutionary album entitled Need Somebody.

Before becoming one of New York’s most sought after bass players, Francis also co-produced and arranged the album Guido Vittale for Koning Plank, featuring Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, as well as working on music for the film Young Maestro, featuring Elizabeth Taylor and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Francis Mbappe also runs his music production company FM Groove Inc., bringing people of different races, educations and backgrounds together in an attempt to unify people through acts of artistic expression.


Need Somebody (FM Groove, 2000)
Celebration (FM Groove, 2005)
Seeds of Djuke (liveWired Music, 2009)
Peace is Freedom (FM Groove, 2010)


Artist Profiles: Kong Nay

Kong Nay

Kong Nay was born March 15, 1944 in Kampot, Cambodia. With his trademark dark glasses, he is Cambodia’s most recognizable traditional musician. He is always in demand for Cambodian cultural events and is regularly appearing on Cambodian television.

Blinded by smallpox at the age of four, Kong Nay began his studies on the chapei dang weng lute at thirteen. Chapei, named afte the musical instrument, is a traditional form of improvised song-making that is often compared to American Delta Blues.

Coming from a musical family, Kong Nay grew up around relatives who were masters of traditional instruments, copying religious manuscripts, Buddhist chanting, poetry and the chapei dang weng. In his youth, Kong Nay often faced ridicule from his peers for his disability. Rather than being disempowered by their prejudice, however, Kong Nay sought to find a vocation that would bring him independence and respect. The chapei, whose sound had excited him from childhood, turned out to be the perfect instrument. Within two years of beginning his studies, at the age of fifteen Kong Nay began to perform professionally. His reputation grew quickly, and he soon earned the nickname Kung “Handsome” Nay.

Kong Nay, while still sometimes performing classical poems like those by Phirum Ngoy, is best known from his incredible gift for improvisation, a prized skill he acquired after studying poetry for nearly two decades.

During the Khmer Rouge genocide, Kong Nay, like so many other Cambodians, was forced to work for long hours with little food. Unlike most of his fellow musicians, however, Kong Nay was unbelievably spared from the regime’s attempts to wipe out intellectuals and artists.

In 2007 he received the Gold Grand Cross of Cambodia Cultural Reputation by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In 2017 Kong Nay received the Arts and Culture Prize of the prestigious Fukuoka Prize.


A Cambodian Bard (INEDIT/Maison des Cultures du Monde, 2006)
Mekong Delta Blues (Long Tale Recordings, 2007), with Ouch Savvy


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