Sia Tolno - My Life
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Sia Tolno
My Life
Lusafrica (www.lusafrica.com)

This album starts off a bit jarringly as Guinean-born Sia Tolno shouts out the title of opening track ďBlamah BlamahĒ like itís some kind of taunt. Actually, itís the name of a town and the song is about an annual celebration there. But you canít blame Tolno for coming on strong. She was raised by abusive parents in Sierra Leone, displaced by the wars over control of that countryís diamond industry, lived for a while in an apartment that housed 30 people and overcame considerable odds to excel as a performer, first in theatre and then in music.

It was the latter that provided her breakthrough, beginning as a singer covering songs by Edith Piaf, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston in the nightclubs of Conakry and later developing her own material with assistance from guitarist Kante Manfila and producer/arranger/multi-instrumentalist Francois Breant, both known for their work with Maliís Salif Keita.

My Life, recorded at Mory Kanteís studio in Conakry, is Tolnoís second international release. Itís a strong, lively selection of Afropop that may well put you in mind of another modern African diva, Angelique Kidjo. Traditional instruments and rhythms mix freely with sounds and ideas from the present day and Tolno, singing alternately in the minority Guinean Kissi language, English and French, belts it out in appealingly husky style. The musical backing largely stays away from programming and canned beats, a natural approach suiting Tolnoís similarly earthy pipes. Some songs address hardships of African life that Tolno has experienced or witnessed, but thereís an ample amount of danceable arrangements to keep things from wallowing. A couple of accordion-laced tracks are truly stunning in fine Lusophone style, and the whole album, though hardly a landmark in African music, is heartfelt and satisfying throughout. - Tom Orr

CD available as a special order from cdRoots

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CD available from cdRoots

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