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)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for TelevisiĆ³n EspaƱola (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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