wed 17/07/2024

CD: Sia Tolno - African Woman | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Sia Tolno - African Woman

CD: Sia Tolno - African Woman

Africa's big soul voice turns back the clock and reworks Afro-beat

Sia Tolno: African soul groover

Sia Tolno was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, had a violent father, was forced to leave the country due to the civil war and ended up in the harsh world of Conakry nightclubs. Life was no bed of roses, in other words. The inspiring thing about this album is how she now stands loud and proud in the tradition of powerful African women like Angelique Kidjo and Miriam Makeba. This, her fourth and most ambitious album is her take on Afro-beat. 

Her collaborator is Tony Allen, Fela Kuti’s legendary drummer and co-architect of Afro-beat 40-plus years on from the original sound when Allen was the anchor of a band even James Brown had to admit were the hottest on the planet. Remarkably, Allen still seems to have the same fresh energy as ever and he and Tolno have rounded up some top-notch musicians full of fire and precision. The album deals with plenty of tough subjects from female genital mutilation to the story of a couple of African migrants found dead in the undercarriage of a Belgian airliner. One heartfelt number "Rebel Leader" is an attack on Liberian President and warlord Charles Taylor.

Some of the songs are perhaps too close to Fela and Allen’s original blueprint, notably in the brass arrangements and it is only where she veers more off-piste for the gospel-tinged "Manu" or for a highlife-flavoured track like "Mama", it really sounds totally her own voice as opposed to a re-make, however brilliantly done. Still, an accomplished effort, superbly drenched in funk moments and occasional flashes of brilliance.

The inspiring thing about this album is how Sia Tolno now stands loud and proud in the tradition of powerful African women


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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