Aleksandar Hemon had the following to say about fellow Bosnian novelist Miljenko Jergovic’s “Sarajevo Marlboro,” a collection of stories about the 1992 siege of their home city: “This book does not belong to the literature of complaining . . . . [It] is a book for the people who celebrate life.” The same is true of the Guinean singer Sia Tolno’s “My Life,” an irrepressible song-cycle confronting the ravages she witnessed in her native Sierra Leone that nevertheless brims with dignity, resilience and hope.
Propelled by funky Afrobeat horns and percussion, the album-opening “Blamah Blamah” finds Tolno fondly remembering the annual year-end festival in Blama, a town in Sierra Leone that today lies in ruin. In “Odju Watcha,” singing in English and a mix of Kissi and Mendi dialects, she decries bloodshed and corruption throughout the African continent. Still, the underlying message here, conveyed non-verbally by spongy grooves and rippling Mandingo guitar, is less resigned than assertive. The track’s pressing rhythms reverberate with the affirmation, “We will prevail.”