Guinean singer wows Kigalians
THE lively beat of the band and twang of the electric guitar get feet tapping, but when Sia Tolno sings, the audience immediately roars into applause and the auditorium fills with the sound of cheering.
The talented Guinean singer performed to a crowd of over 200 people at the Ishyo Arts Centre in Kacyiru on Wednesday evening. With every seat occupied, audience members took to the aisles and the back of the auditorium to dance and sway to the lively music.
Music is a godly thing, a soulful spiritual thing, and to keep on working, it’s not easy,” said Tolno. “It’s not about how to earn the prize. It’s about how hard you work and what you are trying to be. And one day, when yo
“The experience I had tonight has never happened before,” said Tolno, who invited several Rwandan musicians onstage, including Shanel. “These [Rwandan] musicians…you see how they love music. I thank them for encouraging me to go on and have this magical experience onstage.”
Tolno is the winner of the 2011 RFI Discoveries Award, a contest open to singers residing in Africa, the Caribbean and Indian Ocean islands. Her unique style combines electric guitar with her own type of Afro-funk, sung in creole which mixes Kissi and Mende, two of the languages spoken in her native region of Quéckédou. As part of the award, Tolno will tour Africa and perform in 27 African countries.
“Music helped me throughout my life,” said Tolno. “It was a struggle to get here, it was not easy. It was a dream come true, not just because of the RFI prize but because I’ve met so many people who helped my songs to progress. Music gave me the strength. I hope that I would transmit the strength to other people.”
The concert was organised by the French Institute of Rwanda (formerly French Cultural Centre).
“In Kigali, you have many talents – but you must improve the level of the artistes, the music,” said Diana Ramarohetra, General Secretary of the French Institute of Rwanda. “We want to bring the infrastructure to help them develop and take their talents to a new level.”
Ramarohetra hopes performances such as Tolno’s will encourage local vocalists to aspire for RFI Discoveries Award competitions.
The French Institute of Rwanda hosts a variety of cultural and educational activities in Rwanda that promote art and scientific culture. Its past projects include performances, workshops, film screenings, French courses, exhibitions, master classes, an e-library, and the opening of a studio – all of which are open to the public and free of charge.
“Music is a godly thing, a soulful spiritual thing, and to keep on working, it’s not easy,” said Tolno. “It’s not about how to earn the prize. It’s about how hard you work and what you are trying to be. And one day, when you get the prize, it’s about how you will use it to continue your work.”
Tolno’s next destination is Djibouti, and she jokes that she hopes Djiboutians will be like Rwandans. Although her international tour has many more stops, Tolno plans to return to Rwanda to support local artistes through more exchanges in music and experience.
When asked what advice she had to offer to Rwandan artistes, Tolno responded: “My advice is to stay natural. You don’t sing with your voice, you sing with your soul. Be natural and warm, and the sun will shine on you.”