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N’Dour, Youssou

Youssou NDour

Singer, composer, drummer

For the Record

The little Prince of Dakar

Diverse Lyrical Content

Released Several Albums on Own Label

Selected discography

Sources

Youssou NDour is an international star in a field of popular music that has come to be known as Afro-pop or world beat. He is a singer, composer, and drummer whose style has been given the name mbalax. NDours own particular brand of mbalax has become so popular and widespread that he is often credited with inventing the genre. Ronnie Graham has explained in The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music that mbalax is a generic Senegalese music characterized by a percussion base and featuring an improvised solo on the sabar drum. It has also been described as modern Senegalese rock.

Graham described Senegalese pop music of the late 1980s as a sophisticated blend of the old and the new, with the old being primarily Cuban-influenced melodies and rhythms that dominated Senegalese music prior to the 1970s. The development of local styles was seriously hindered by the French philosophy of exporting its own culture to its colonies; local idioms, instruments, and traditions did not begin to appear in urban contemporary music until the 1970s, after Senegal had achieved independence. The tama, a small talking drum, was introduced in the 1970s and became a popular lead instrument.

NDours take on mbalax features a rhythmic dance band consisting of as many as 14 members, including multiple percussionists, guitarists, saxophonists, and backing vocalists. As NDour achieved greater recognition and acceptance among Western audiences in Europe and the United States during the late 1980s, he was relieved of some of the pressure to incorporate Western rock styles into his own music. Although he is fluent in French, Arabic, and his native Wolof, NDours English is not very good. Thus, he is at his best when able to present an appealing and authentic brand of African pop, with its own unique rhythms and vocalizations sung in Wolof, one of Senegals major native languages.

NDour was born in 1959 in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on the west coast of Africa. He grew up in a traditional African community within the Medina section of the city. Living on the street was like being in a family, the musician was quoted as saying in the Detroit News. Everybody knows one another, theres a great feeling of togetherness. NDours father was a mechanic who discouraged him from a musical career. His mother, however, was a griot in the community. A griot is a West African musician-entertainer whose performances include tribal histories and genealogies; NDours mother was a respected elder who kept the oral tradition of the communitys history alive through traditional songs and moral teachings.

With his mothers encouragement, NDour would sing at kassak, a party to celebrate circumcision. As NDour described his work then to the Detroit Metro Times, Sometimes on one street there would be four or five

For the Record

Born in 1959 in Dakar, Senegal; father was a mechanic, mother was a griot (a community historian and storyteller); married; six children.

Began singing at ceremonial parties as a child; performed for large audiences by age 14; joined recording/performing group the Star Band; formed band Etoile de Dakar (Star of Dakar), c. 1979, relocated to Paris and reformulated band as Super Etoile de Dakar (Superstar of Dakar), c. 1984; has toured the United States and Europe and participated in Amnesty Internationals Human Rights Now! world tour, 1988; with Super Etoile, released Immigres, 1985; played drums on Paul Simons Graceland album, 1986; sang backing vocals on Gabriels So album; toured with Gabriel, 1988; released The Lion (Gaiende) on Virgin Records, 1989; released Set, 1990; recorded duet with Swedish singer Neneh Cherry called 7 Seconds, which appeared on the Guide: The Wommat album, 1994; released Lii, St. Louis, and Rewmi on own Jololi label, 1990s; released Joko, which featured collaborations with musicians including Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Wyclef Jean, on Nonesuch, 2000; released Le Grand Bal, Bercy, 2000; and Baton and Le Grand Bal 1 & 2 on Jololi, 2001.

Addresses: Record company Nonesuch Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.nonesuch.com. Office Youssou NDour Head Office, Route des Almadies Parcelle No. 8 BP 1310, Dakar, Sénégal, email: yncontact@yahoo.fr. Website Youssou NDour Official Website: http://www.youssou.com.

kassaks going on at the same time. They would start in the evening and I would go to one and sing two numbers, then on to the next Sometimes I used to sing at 10 kassaks a night. Gradually, my friends and others encouraged me and gave me confidence, because they liked my singing.

The little Prince of Dakar

By the age of 14, NDour was performing in front of large audiences and had earned the nickname, Le Petit Prince de Dakar, or The Little Prince of Dakar. As a teenager he joined the Star Band, the best-known Senegalese pop band of the time, recording with them and performing in clubs in Dakar. By the time he was 20, he had left the Star Band to form his own group, Etoile de Dakar (Star of Dakar). They recorded three albums in Dakar and had a hit with their first single, Xalis (Money).

Looking back in 1990, he stated in the Detroit News: When I started to play music, I was playing traditional music. But when I came to Europe to listen to the sounds around me, by 1984 I had a new attitude. Im a new person now, opening fast. I like to change. Im African, yes, but I like to play music for everybody. But my identity is African. That will never change. NDour and the Super Etoile began to win over Western audiences to the sound of mbalax. The Super Etoile consisted of 14 members, probably the largest aggregation with which NDour would ever perform. The group used traditional Wolof and African rhythms behind NDours unique tenor. NDour continued to sing in Wolof, his vocal style often compared to the Islamic chanting heard in mosques and temples.

By the mid-1980s, the group was ready for a major international breakthrough; in addition to playing at NDours nightclub in Dakar, the Thiosanne, they had toured the United States, Great Britain, and Holland. Remembering his audiences in Dakar and his friends from the Medina, NDour made it a point to return there. A song he wrote, Medina, celebrates his old neighborhood and his old friends, who he told the Detroit News are still my friends today and are the people I have around me.

In 1985 NDour and Super Etoile released Immigres, which became a classic in the Afro-pop field. It was issued in the United States three years later. NDour increased his exposure to Western audiences in 1986 by appearing as a drummer on Paul Simons Grace-land album. He recorded the Nelson Mandela album in Paris that year and toured the United States twice with Super Etoile, once on their own and once opening for Peter Gabriel. NDour sang backing vocals on Gabriels So album; in fact, Gabriel is the Western musician most responsible for bringing Youssou NDour to America and other Western nations.

NDour continued to tour with Peter Gabriel in 1988, reducing the size of his band to six pieces and a dancer. In the summer of that year, NDour played New Yorks first International Festival of the Arts at the Beacon Theatre. The influence of American music on NDour was revealed in his half-set of American pop and soul, during which singer Nona Hendryx joined him for a song in English and Wolof. New York Times writer Jon Parelis wrote of NDour, What makes Mr. NDour an international sensation, along with the dance rhythms of mbalax, is his unforgettable voice, a pure, pealing tenor that melds pop sincerity with the nuances of Islamic singing. Noting that mbalax has always combined international influences with Senegalese traditions, Parelis expressed his concern that American pop was diluting the effect of NDours singing and the bands rhythms. NDour would later echo this concern in Rolling Stone, saying Its a very difficult balance to keep the roots and bring in a bit of the Western world.

In the fall of 1988, NDour gained even greater international exposure as part of Amnesty Internationals Human Rights Now! world tour. At Londons Wembley Stadium, NDour joined pop stars Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Gabriel, and Tracy Chapman to sing Bob Mar-leys classic reggae song, Get Up, Stand Up. It was the start of a 44-day tour of five continents, including such nations as Hungary, India, Zimbabwe, Argentina, and Brazil. Only two U.S. dates were included, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Diverse Lyrical Content

NDours original songs feature political and social commentary. He also writes and performs songs with a personal lyric contentabout his old neighborhood and childhood pals, the youth of his country, and about roaming the countryside with a friend. In 1989 Virgin Records released an NDour album, The Lion (Gaiende). It was recorded in Paris and Dakar and was produced by George Acogny and David Sancious, who have combined backgrounds in jazz, pop, and rock. The Super Etoile, then an eight-piece band, was joined by some Western musicians, including pop-jazz saxophonist David Sanborn. Gabriel and NDour sing a duet on one of the albums tracks, Shaking The Tree, a song celebrating womens rights. NDour sings in Wolof on the album, but English translations of the lyrics are provided. In a review of The Lion, New York Times commentator Parelis again expressed his concern that too much Western influence was creeping into NDours music and writing, Despite an undercurrent of Senegalese drums, the rippling vocal lines and dizzying polyrhythms that made Western listeners notice him are usually truncated.

By the fall of 1989, Super Etoile was back to full strength with 12 pieces for NDours club dates in the United States. The extra percussion and instrumentation helped restore the driving rhythm of NDours music. Reviewing a performance at New Yorks the Ritz, Parelis described the two percussionists whose doubletime and tripletime rhythms restored mbalaxs sense of swift, sprinting momentum. He noted that the intricate cross-rhythms combined ably with a firm downbeat to provide a mix of Western and Senegalese styles. The show ended with a songabout toxic wasteintended as a single from NDours Virgin album, Set.

Set deals with personal emotions, social problems, and political issues. NDour remarked on the record in the Detroit News: Most of the songs I heard in my youth were either love songs or traditional songs recounting the history of the people that I come frompraise songs, historical songs. The lyrics of my own works today I consider to be about the society in which I live, the world in which I live. I want my words to have an educational function.

Set, which means pure or clean in Wolof, had an unexpected effect on the youth of Senegal. It started an underground movement among the children living in the ghettos of Dakar. They took it upon themselves to clean up their neighborhoods and homes, removing unsightly waste and painting colorful murals with uplifting messages and pictures of cultural icons on city walls. Set, NDour told RootsWorld magazine, became a rallying cry for good behavior in public, for getting things done without waiting for the government to do them, for taking responsibility for ones environment, at the level of your own block.

Released Several Albums on Own Label

One of NDours most successful songs was a duet with Swedish singer Neneh Cherry on a track called 7 Seconds, from the 1994 album Guide: The Wommat. More than three million copies of the single were sold worldwide, and the track received significant airplay on radio stations around the world. NDour released several albums during the 1990s on his label Jololi in Senegal. The albums Lii, St. Louis, and Rewmi featured roots-oriented music and were more world beat than his mainstream Afro-pop recordings that have been released in the United States. Six years passed between Guide: The Wommat and his next international release, Joko (From Village to City ).

Joko, which was released in 2000 on the Warner Bros.-owned Nonesuch Records, features collaborations with several artists including Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Wyclef Jean. Jean also produced several tracks on the album, which received mixed critical response and some accusations that he had sold out to commercial pressure by making such a collaborative and crossover album. Nevertheless, the album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best World Music Album category. Two years later, Nothings in Vain was released, again on Nonesuch, in the United States. The Asia Africa Intelligence Wire called the album poetic and uncompromising, a more authentic experience [than Joko], suggesting a return to his African roots.

NDour launched another community-building project at the same time Joko was released. The project, also called Joko (which means connection or link in Wolof) aims to make the Internet accessible and relevant to those living in Africa. NDour, in a partnership with Hewlett Packard, set up a network of Internet access centers and Internet training in Senegal to bring the medium to those who wouldnt otherwise have such access to the Internet.

NDour is one of the rare stars who has chosen to stay in Africa even after achieving international renown. Performers leave Senegal because theres nothing there to help them fulfill their potential, he told the United Nations UNESCO Courier. This has made me want to change things Artists have power and should use it to get their messages across.

Selected discography

Nelson Mandela, Polydor, 1986.

Immigres, Virgin, 1988.

The Lion (Gaiende), Virgin, 1989.

Set, Virgin, 1990.

Eyes Open, Columbia, 1992.

Guide: The Wommat, Columbia, 1994.

Lii, Jololi, 1996.

St. Louis, Jololi, 1997.

Best of the 80s, Melodie, 1998.

Rewmi, Jololi, 1999.

Joko (From Village to City), Warner/Nonesuch, 2000.

Le Grand Bal, Bercy, Jololi, 2000.

Batay, Jololi, 2001.

Le Grand Bal 1 & 2, Jololi, 2001.

Birth of a Star, Manteca, 2001.

Et Ses Amis, Universal International, 2002.

Nothings In Vain, Warner/Nonesuch, 2002.

Sources

Books

Graham, Ronnie, The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music, Da Capo, 1988.

Periodicals

Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, November 1, 2002.

Billboard, June 20, 1992; January 15, 2000.

Business Wire, August 9, 2001.

Detroit Free Press, October 5, 1990.

Detroit News, October 5, 1990.

Down Beat, May 1987; April 2001.

Europe Intelligence Wire, October 19, 2002.

Financial Times, November 2, 2002.

Metro Times (Detroit, MI), October 3, 1990.

New York Times, July 2, 1988; July 2, 1989; November 8, 1989.

Newsweek, September 12, 1988.

People, October 10, 1988; October 19, 1992.

Rolling Stone, July 13, 1989.

Time, September 15, 2001.

Online

Youssou NDour, NPR Morning Edition, http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/2001/sep/ndour/010921.ndour.html (February 6, 2003).

Youssou NDour: Africas World Musician, UNESCO Courier, http://www.unesco.Org/courier/1998_08/uk/dires/txt1.htm (February 6, 2003).

The Youssou NDour Interview: 2000, RootsWorld, http://www.rootsworld.com/interview/ndour.html (February 6, 2003).

Youssou NDour Official Website, http://www.youssou.com (February 6, 2003).

David Bianco

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N'Dour, Youssou

Youssou N'Dour

1959-

Singer, composer, drummer

Youssou N'Dour is an international star in the field of popular music that has come to be known as "Afropop" or "world beat." He is a singer, composer, and drummer whose style has been given the name "mbalax." N'Dour's own particular brand of mbalax has become so popular and widespread that he is often credited with inventing the genre, although Ronnie Graham stated in his authoritative book on contemporary African music that mbalax is a generic Senegalese music characterized by a percussion base and featuring an improvised solo on the sabar drum. Mbalax has also been described as modern Senegalese rock.

Graham described Senegalese pop music of the late 1980s as "a sophisticated blend of the old and the new," with the old being primarily Cuban-influenced melodies and rhythms that dominated Senegalese music prior to the 1970s. The development of local styles was seriously hindered by the French philosophy of exporting their own culture; and local idioms, instruments, and traditions did not begin to appear in urban contemporary music until the 1970s, after Senegal had achieved independence. The tama, a small talking drum, was introduced in the 1970s and became a popular lead instrument.

N'Dour calls his music "African storytelling on the wings of 21st-century instrumentation," according to Vanity Fair. N'Dour's own mbalax features a rhythmic dance band consisting of as many as 14 members, including multiple percussionists, guitarists, saxophonists, and backing vocalists. As N'Dour achieved greater recognition and acceptance among Western audiences in Europe and the United States during the late 1980s, he began to use more traditional African and Arabic sounds in his music. Although he is fluent in French, Arabic, and his native Wolof, his English is not very good. Thus, he is at his best when able to present an appealing and authentic brand of African pop, with its own unique rhythms and vocalizations sung in Wolof, one of Senegal's major native languages.

Inspired by His Roots

N'Dour was born on October 1, 1959, in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on the west coast of Africa. Historically, Senegal is a part of French or francophone Africa. Musically, external influences within Senegal and other parts of francophone Africa were more restricted than in anglophone or British Africa. N'Dour grew up in a traditional African community within the Medina section of the city, a place has continued to offer great inspiration for his music. He related to Interview that Dakar was to him "a living poem, a place of unbridled energy, remarkable ambition and legendary artistic flair. I know of no other city on earth where people do so much with so little."

The story of N'Dour's upbringing is that his father was a mechanic who discouraged him from a musical career. His mother, however, was a griot in the community. A griot is a historian and storyteller within the community. N'Dour's mother was a respected elder who kept the oral tradition of the community's history alive through traditional songs and moral teachings.

With his mother's encouragement, N'Dour would sing at kassak, a party to celebrate circumcision. As N'Dour described his work then, "Sometimes on one street there would be four or five kassaks going on at the same time. They would start in the evening and I would go to one and sing two numbers, then on to the next…. Sometimes I used to sing at 10 kassaks a night. Gradually, my friends and others encouraged me and gave me confidence, because they liked my singing."

Made It Big with the Super Etoile

By the age of 14, N'Dour was performing in front of large audiences and had earned the nickname, "Le Petit Prince de Dakar," or "The Little Prince of Dakar." As a teenager he joined the Star Band, the best known Senegalese pop band of the time, recording with them and performing in clubs in Dakar. By the time he was 20, he had left the Star Band to form his own group, Etoile de Dakar (Star of Dakar). They recorded three albums in Dakar and had a hit with their first single, "Xalis (Money)." Then they relocated to Paris and reformed as the Super Etoile de Dakar (Superstar of Dakar).

Living in Paris and the European milieu provided N'Dour with a range of new musical influences to contend with. He says, "When I started to play music, I was playing traditional music. But when I came to Europe to listen to the sounds around me, by 1984 I had a new attitude. I'm a new person now [1990], opening fast. I like to change. I'm African, yes, but I like to play music for everybody. But my identity is African. That will never change."

From his base in Paris, N'Dour and the Super Etoile began to win over Western audiences to the sound of mbalax. The Super Etoile consisted of 14 members, probably the largest aggregation N'Dour would ever perform with. The group used traditional Wolof and African rhythms behind N'Dour's unique tenor. N'Dour sang and continues to sing in Wolof, his vocal style often compared to Islamic chanting reminiscent of mosques and temples.

Gained International Attention

By the mid-1980s, the group was ready for a major international breakthrough. They had toured the United States, Great Britain, and Holland, in addition to playing at N'Dour's nightclub in Dakar, the Thiosanne. Remembering his audiences in Dakar and his friends from the Medina, N'Dour made it a point to return there. A song he wrote, "Medina," celebrates his old neighborhood and his old friends, who "are still my friends today and are the people I have around me." As his career progressed, N'Dour remained in touch with his roots and made his home base in Dakar. He told Time in 2001 that living in Dakar "gives me a certain inspiration; it allows me to keep my passion for music alive."

N'Dour and Super Etoile released an album in 1985 that became a classic in the Afro-pop field, Immigres. It was released in the United States three years later. N'Dour increased his exposure to Western audiences in 1986 by appearing as a drummer on Paul Simon's Graceland album. He recorded the Nelson Mandela album in Paris that year and toured the United States twice with Super Etoile, once on their own and once opening for Peter Gabriel. N'Dour sang backing vocals on Gabriel's So album, and it is Gabriel who is the Western musician most responsible for bringing Youssou N'Dour to America and other Western nations.

At a Glance …

Born on October 1, 1959, in Dakar, Senegal; father was a mechanic; mother was a griot (a community historian and storyteller).

Career: Singer at ceremonial parties throughout childhood; Star Band, recording/performing group, member, 1970s-?; Etoile de Dakar (Star of Dakar), member, c. 1979-84(?); Super Etoile de Dakar (Superstar of Dakar), member, c. 1984; Joko, Senegalese internet training company, founder, 2001.

Memberships: Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador to UNICEF, Ambassador to the International Bureau of Work.

Awards: Best African Artist, 1996; fRoots, Best African Artist of the Century, 2000; Critics Award, BBC Radio 3, 2005; Grammy Award, for Best Contemporary World Music Album, 2005, for Egypt.

Addresses: Office—Youssou N'Dour Head Office, Route des Almadies Parcelle, No. 8 BP 1310, Dakar, Senegal; Web—www.youssou.com.

N'Dour continued to tour with Peter Gabriel in 1988, reducing the size of his band to six pieces and a dancer. In the summer of that year, N'Dour played New York's first International Festival of the Arts at the Beacon Theatre. The influence of American pop on N'Dour was revealed in his playing half a set's worth of American pop and soul, with Nona Hendryx joining him for a song in English and Wolof. New York Times writer, Jon Parelis, wrote of N'Dour, "What makes Mr. N'Dour an international sensation, along with the dance rhythms of mbalax, is his unforgettable voice, a pure, pealing tenor that melds pop sincerity with the nuances of Islamic singing." Noting that mbalax has always combined international influences with Senegalese traditions, Parelis expressed his concern that American pop was diluting the effect of N'Dour's singing and the band's rhythms. N'Dour would later echo this concern in Rolling Stone, when he said, "It's a very difficult balance to keep the roots and bring in a bit of the Western world."

Leveraged His Fame for the Needy

In the Fall of 1988, N'Dour gained even greater international exposure as part of Amnesty International's "Human Rights Now!" world tour. At London's Wembley Stadium, N'Dour joined Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Tracy Chapman to sing Bob Marley's classic reggae song, "Get Up, Stand Up." It was the start of a 44-day tour of five continents, including such Third World and Eastern bloc nations as Hungary, India, Zimbabwe, Argentina, and Brazil. Only two U.S. dates were included, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Over the years, N'Dour has tried to leverage his celebrity to benefit others. To help his country, he bought a newspaper, a nightclub, a radio station, and a recording studio in order to offer employment to his people. He has participated in several charity album recordings. He has campaigned for the debt relief of developing nations. He has served as Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador to UNICEF, and Ambassador to the International Bureau of Work. In 2001 he also started an internet training company called Joko in order to introduce a greater number of Senegalese to the World Wide Web. N'Dour's original songs also include political and social commentary.

Personal Messages Woven into His Music

N'Dour is also capable of writing and performing songs with a personal lyric content, songs about his old neighborhood and childhood pals, about the youth of his country, and about roaming the countryside with a friend. In 1989, Virgin Records released a new N'Dour album, The Lion (Gaiende). It was recorded in Paris, England, and Dakar and was produced by George Acogny and David Sancious, who have combined backgrounds in jazz, pop, and rock. The Super Etoile, by now reduced to an eight-piece band, was joined by some Western musicians, including pop-jazz saxophonist David Sanborn. Peter Gabriel and N'Dour sing a duet on one of the album's tracks, "Shaking The Tree." N'Dour sings in Wolof on the album, but English translations of the lyrics are provided. In a review of the album, New York Times reviewer Jon Parelis again expressed his concern that too much Western influence was creeping into N'Dour's music, and he wrote, "Despite an undercurrent of Senegalese drums, the rippling vocal lines and dizzying polyrhythms that made Western listeners notice him are usually truncated."

By the Fall of 1989, Super Etoile was back to full strength with 12 pieces for N'Dour's club dates in the United States. The extra percussion and instrumentation helped restore the driving rhythm of N'Dour's music. Reviewing a performance at New York's the Ritz, Jon Parelis described the "two percussionists whose doubletime and tripletime rhythms restored mbalax's sense of swift, sprinting momentum." He noted that the intricate cross-rhythms combined well with a firm downbeat to provide a mix of Western and Senegalese styles. The show ended with a song about toxic wastes that would be released in 1990 as a single from N'Dour's Virgin album, Set.

N'Dour's songs on Set deal with personal emotions, social problems, and political issues. He says, "Most of the songs I heard in my youth were either love songs or traditional songs recounting the history of the people that I come from—praise songs, historical songs. The lyrics of my own works today I consider to be about the society in which I live, the world in which I live. I want my words to have an educational function."

Dubbed King of West African Music

The international success of Set set the stage for N'Dour to broaden his international fame. It inspired Rolling Stone contributor Brian Cullman to comment that "If any third-world performer has a real shot at the sort of universal popularity last enjoyed by Bob Marley, it's Youssou, a singer with a voice so extraordinary that the history of Africa seems locked inside it." Indeed, his star continued to rise. His 1994 album The Guide garnered two Grammy nominations. He wrote and performed, with Axelle Red, the anthem for the 1998 World Cup in France. By 2000, N'Dour was recognized as the "king of West African music," according to Billboard.

His greatest success came in 2004 when he released the album, Egypt. N'Dour deftly combined Senegalese percussion traditions with Arabic instrumental arrangements. The songs explore his Islamic faith. N'Dour has said that the songs were so personal that he did not intend to release the album, which he recorded with both Egyptian and Senegalese musicians in 1999. But world events soon changed his mind. "My religion needs to be better known for its positive side," he told Billboard. "Maybe this music can move us toward a greater understanding of the peaceful message of Islam." Reviewer Chris Nickson wrote in Sing Out! that Egypt is "one of those rare records that truly deserves to be called stunning, quite possibly the best thing N'Dour has ever achieved which is saying something indeed." His effort was honored with his first Grammy award in 2005.

Selected works

Albums

Nelson Mandela, Polydor, 1986.

Immigres, Virgin, 1988.

The Lion (Gaiende), Virgin, 1989.

Set, Virgin, 1990.

Eyes Open, Columbia, 1992.

The Guide (Wommat), Chaos/Columbia, 1994.

Lii, Jololi, 1996.

St. Louis, Jololi, 1997.

Rewmi, 1999.

Joko, Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch, 2000.

Batay, Jololi, 2001.

Le Grand Bal, 1 and 2, Jololi, 2001.

Et Ses Amis, Universal International, 2002.

Nothing's in Vain, Warner/Nonesuch, 2002.

Egypt, Nonesuch, 2004.

Sources

Books

Graham, Ronnie, The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music, Da Capo Press, 1988.

Periodicals

Billboard, June 10, 2000; April 17, 2004.

Detroit Free Press, October 5, 1990.

Detroit Metro Times, October 3-9, 1990.

Detroit News, October 5, 1990.

Down Beat, May 1987.

Interview, May 2001, p. 76.

New York Times, July 2, 1988; July 2, 1989; November 8, 1989.

Newsweek, September 12, 1988.

People, October 10, 1988.

Rolling Stone, July 13-27, 1989; November 15, 199D.

Sing Out!, Fall 2004, p. 110.

Time, September 15, 2001, p. 66.

Vainty Fair, November 2004.

On-line

"Youssou N'Dour," Nonesuch, www.nonesuch.com/Hi_Band/index_frameset2.cfm?pointer=ndour.gif (August 12, 2005).

Youssou N'Dour, www.youssou.com (August 12, 2005).

—David Bianco and Sara Pendergast

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N’Dour, Youssou 1959—

Youssou NDour 1959

Singer, composer, drummer

At a Glance

Toured Europe and the United States

Diverse Lyrical Content

Selected Discography

Sources

Youssou NDour is an international star in the field of popular music that has come to be known as Afro-pop or world beat. He is a singer, composer, and drummer whose style has been given the name mbalax. NDours own particular brand of mbalax has become so popular and widespread that he is often credited with inventing the genre, although Ronnie Graham stated in his authoritative book on contemporary African music that mbalax is a generic Senegalese music characterized by a percussion base and featuring an improvised solo on the sabar drum. Mbalax has also been described as modern Senegalese rock.

Graham described Senegalese pop music of the late 1980s as a sophisticated blend of the old and the new, with the old being primarily Cuban-influenced melodies and rhythms that dominated Senegalese music prior to the 1970s. The development of local styles was seriously hindered by the French philosophy of exporting their own culture; and local idioms, instruments, and traditions did not begin to appear in urban contemporary music until the 1970s, after Senegal had achieved independence. The tama, a small drum, was introduced in the 1970s and became a popular lead instrument.

NDours own mbalax features a rhythmic dance band consisting of as many as 14 members, including multiple percussionists, guitarists, saxophonists, and backing vocalists. As NDour has achieved greater recognition and acceptance among Western audiences in Europe and the United States during the late 1980s, he has been relieved of some of the pressure to incorporate Western rock styles into his own music. Although he is fluent in French, Arabic, and his native Wolof, his English is not very good. Thus, he is at his best when able to present an appealing and authentic brand of African pop, with its own unique rhythms and vocalizations sung in Wolof, one of Senegals major native languages.

NDour was born in 1959 in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on the west coast of Africa. Historically, Senegal is a part of French or francophone Africa. Musically, external influences within Senegal and other parts of francophone Africa were more restricted than in anglophone or British Africa. NDour grew up in a traditional African community within the Medina section of the city. He says of life in the Medina, Living on the street was like being in a

At a Glance

Born in 1959 in Dakar, Senegal; father was a mechanic; mother was a griot (a community historian and storyteller).

Began singing at ceremonial parties at ceremonial parties as a child; was performing in front of large audiences by age 14; joined recording/performing group, the Star Band; formed own band, Etoile de Dakar (Star of Dakar), c. 1979, reformed in Paris as Super Etoile de Dakar (Superstar of Dakar), c. 1984. Has toured the United States and Europe and took part in Amnesty Internationals Human Rights Now world tour, 1988.

family. Everybody knows one another, theres a great feeling of togetherness.

The story of NDours upbringing is that his father was a mechanic who discouraged him from a musical career. His mother, however, was a griot in the community. A griot is a historian and storyteller within the community. NDour mother was a respected elder who kept the oral tradition of the communitys history alive through traditional songs and moral teachings.

With his mothers encouragement, NDour would sing at kassak, a party to celebrate circumcision. As NDour described his his work then, Sometimes no one street there would be four or five kassaks going on at the same time. They would start in the evening and I would be one and sing two numbers, then on to the next Sometimes I used to sing at 10 kassaks a night. Gradually, my friends and others encouraged me and gave me confidence, because they liked my singing.

By the age of 14, NDour was performing in front of large audiences and had earned the nickname, Le Petit Prince de Dakar, or The Little Prince of Dakar. As a teenager he joined the Star Band, the best known Senegalese pop band of the time, recording with them and performing in clubs in Dakar. By the time he was 20, he had left the Star Band to form his own group, Etoile de Dakar (Star of Dakar). They recorded three albums in Dakar and had a hit with their first single, Xalis (Money). Then they relocated to Paris and reformed as the Super Etoile de Dakar (Superstar of Dakar).

Toured Europe and the United States

Living in Paris and the European milieu provided NDour with a range of new musical influences to contend with. He says, When I started to play music, I was playing traditional music. But when I came to Europe to listen to the sounds around me, by 1984 I had a new attitude. Im a new person now [1990], opening fast. I like to change. Im African, yes, but I like to play music for everybody. But my identity is African. That will never change.

From his base in Paris, NDour and the Super Etoile began to win over Western audiences to the sound of mbalax. The Super Etoile consisted of 14 members, probably the largest aggregation NDour would ever perform with. The group used traditional Wolof and African rhythms behind NDours unique tenor. NDour sang and continues to sing in Wolof, his vocal style often compared to Islamic chanting reminiscent of mosques and temples.

By the mid-1980s, the group was ready for a major international breakthrough. They had toured the United States, Great Britain, and Holland, in addition to playing at NDours nightclub in Dakar, the Thiosanne. Remembering his audiences in Dakar and his friends from the Medina, NDour made it a point to return there. A song he wrote, Medina, celebrates his old neighborhood and his old friends, who are still my friends today and are the people I have around me.

NDour and Super Etoile released an album in 1985 that became a classic in the Afro-pop field, Immigres. It was released in the United States three years later. NDour increased his exposure to Western audiences in 1986 by appearing as a drummer on Paul Simons Gracehnd album. he recorded the Nelson Mandela album in Paris that year and toured the United States twice with Super Etoile, once on their own and once opening for Peter Gabriel. NDour sang backing vocals on Gabriels So album, and it is Gabriel who is the Western musician most responsible for bringing Youssou NDour to America and other Western nations.

NDour continued to tour with Peter Gabriel in 1988, reducing the size of his band to six pieces and a dancer. In the summer of that year, NDour played New Yorks first International Festival of the Arts at the Beacon Theatre. The influence of American pop on NDour was revealed in his playing half a sets worth of American pop and soul, with Nona Hendryx joining him for a song in English and Wolof. New York Times writer Jon Parelis wrote of NDour, What makes Mr. NDour an international sensation, along with the donce rhythms of mbalax, is his unforgettable voice, a pure, pealing tenor that melds pop sincerity with the nuances of Islamic singing. Noting that mbalax has always combined international influences with Senegalese traditions, Parelis expressed his concern that American pop was diluting the effect of NDours singing and the bands rhythms. NDour would later echo this concern in Rolling Stone, when he said, Its a very difficult balance to keep the roots and bring in a bit of the Western world.

In the Fall of 1988, NDour gained even greater international exposure as part of Amnesty Internationals Human Rights Now! world tour. At Londons Wembley Stadium, NDour joined Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Tracy Chapman to sing Bob Marleys classic reggae song, Get Up, Stand Up. It was the start of a 44-day tour of five continents, including such Third World and Eastern bloc nations as Hungary, India, Zimbabwe, Argentina, and Brazil. Only two U.S. dates were included, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Diverse Lyrical Content

NDours original songs include political and social commentary. He is also capable of writing and performing songs with a personal lyric content, songs about his old neighborhood and childhood pals, about the youth of his country, and about roaming the countryside with a friend. In 1989, Virgin Records released a new NDour album, The Lion (Gaiende). It was recorded in Paris, England, and Dakar and was produced by George Acogny and David Sancious, who have combined backgrounds in jazz, pop, and rock. The Super Etolie, by now reduced to an eight-piece band, was joined by some Western musicians, including pop-jazz saxophonist David Sanborn. Peter Gabriel and NDour sing a duet on one of the albums tracks, Shaking The Tree. NDour sings in Wolof on the album, but English translations of the lyrics are provided. In a review of the album, New York Times reviewer Jon Parelis again expressed his concern that too much Western influence was creeping into NDours music, and he wrote, Despite an undercurrent of Senegalese drums, the rippling vocal lines and dizzying polyrhythms that made Western listeners notice him are usually truncated.

By the fall of 1989, Super Etoile was back to full strength with 12 pieces for NDours club dates in the United States. The extra percussion and instrumentation helped restore the driving rhythm of NDours music. Reviewing a performance at New Yorks the Ritz, Jon Parelis described the two percussionists whose doubletime and tripletime rhythms restored mbalaxs sense of swift, sprinting momentum. He noted that the intricate cross-rhythms combined well with a firm downbeat to provide a mix of Western and Senegalese styles. The show ended with a song about toxic wastes that would be released in 1990 as a single from NDours latest Virgin album, Set

NDours songs on Set deal with personal emotions, social problems, and political issues. He says, Most of the songs I heard in my youth were either love songs or traditional songs recounting the history of the people that I come frompraise songs, historical songs. The lyrics of my own works today I consider to be about the society in which I live, the world in which I live. I want my words to have an educational function.

Selected Discography

Singles

Toxiques, Virgin, 1990.

Albums

Nelson Mandela, Polydor, 1986.

Immigres, Virgin, 1990.

The Lion (Gaiende), Virgin, 1989.

Sources

Books

Graham, Ronnie, The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary

African Music Da Capo Press, 1988.

Periodicals

Detroit Free Press, October 5, 1990.

Detroit Metro Times October 3-9 1990.

Detroit News, October 5, 1990

Down Beat, May 1987

New York Times, July 2, 1988; July 2, 1989; November 8, 1989.

Newsweek, September 12, 1988.

People, October 10, 1988

Rolling Stone, July 13-27, 1989.

David Bianco

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N’Dour, Youssou

Youssou NDour

Singer, composer, drummer

For the Record

Toured Europe and the United States

Diverse Lyrical Content

Selected discography

Sources

Youssou NDour is an international star in a field of popular music that has come to be known as Afro-pop or world beat. He is a singer, composer, and drummer whose style has been given the name mbalax. NDours own particular brand of mbalax has become so popular and widespread that he is often credited with inventing the genre. Ronnie Graham has explained in The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music that mbalax is a generic Senegalese music characterized by a percussion base and featuring an improvised solo on the sabar drum. It has also been described as modern Senegalese rock.

Graham described Senegalese pop music of the late 1980s as a sophisticated blend of the old and the new, with the old being primarily Cuban-influenced melodies and rhythms that dominated Senegalese music prior to the 1970s. The development of local styles was seriously hindered by the French philosophy of exporting its own culture to its colonies; local idioms, instruments, and traditions did not begin to appear in urban contemporary music until the 1970s, after Senegal had achieved independence. The tama, a small talking drum, was introduced in the 1970s and became a popular lead instrument.

NDours take on mbalax features a rhythmic dance band consisting of as many as 14 members, including multiple percussionists, guitarists, saxophonists, and backing vocalists. As NDour achieved greater recognition and acceptance among Western audiences in Europe and the United States during the late 1980s, he was relieved of some of the pressure to incorporate Western rock styles into his own music. Although he is fluent in French, Arabic, and his native Wolof, NDours English is not very good. Thus, he is at his best when able to present an appealing and authentic brand of African pop, with its own unique rhythms and vocalizations sung in Wolof, one of Senegals major native languages.

NDour was born in 1959 in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on the west coast of Africa. He grew up in a traditional African community within the Medina section of the city. Living on the street was like being in a family, the musician was quoted as saying in the Detroit News. Everybody knows one another, theres a great feeling of togetherness. NDours father was a mechanic who discouraged him from a musical career. His mother, however, was a griot in the community. A griot is a West African musician-entertainer whose performances include tribal histories and genealogies; NDours mother was a respected elder who kept the oral tradition of the communitys history alive through traditional songs and moral teachings.

With his mothers encouragement, NDour would sing

For the Record

Born in 1959 in Dakar, Senegal; father was a mechanic, mother was a griot (a community historian and storytell-er).

Began singing at ceremonial parties as a child; performed for large audiences by age 14; joined recording/performing group the Star Band; formed band Etoile de Dakar (Star of Dakar), c. 1979, relocated to Paris and reformulated band as Super Etoile de Dakar (Superstar of Dakar), c. 1984. Has toured the United States and Europe and participated in Amnesty Internationals Human Rights Now! world tour, 1988.

Addresses: Record company Virgin (Atlantic), 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

at kassak, a party to celebrate circumcision. As NDour described his work then to the Detroit Metro Times, Sometimes on one street there would be four or five kassaks going on at the same time. They would start in the evening and I would go to one and sing two numbers, then on to the next. Sometimes I used to sing at 10 kassaks a night. Gradually, my friends and others encouraged me and gave me confidence, because they liked my singing.

By the age of 14, NDour was performing in front of large audiences and had earned the nickname, Le Petit Prince de Dakar, or The Little Prince of Dakar. As a teenager he joined the Star Band, the best-known Senegalese pop band of the time, recording with them and performing in clubs in Dakar. By the time he was 20, he had left the Star Band to form his own group, Etoile de Dakar (Star of Dakar). They recorded three albums in Dakar and had a hit with their first single, Xalis (Money). Then they relocated to Paris and reformed as the Super Etoile de Dakar (Superstar of Dakar).

Toured Europe and the United States

The European milieu provided NDour with a range of new musical influences. Looking back in 1990, he stated in the Detroit News: When I started to play music, I was playing traditional music. But when I came to Europe to listen to the sounds around me, by 1984 I had a new attitude. Im a new person now, opening fast. I like to change. Im African, yes, but I like to play music for everybody. But my identity is African. That will never change. From his base in Paris, NDour and the Super Etoile began to win over Western audiences to the sound of mbalax. The Super Etoile consisted of 14 members, probably the largest aggregation with which NDour would ever perform. The group used traditional Wolof and African rhythms behind NDours unique tenor. NDour continues to sing in Wolof, his vocal style often compared to the Islamic chanting heard in mosques and temples.

By the mid-1980s, the group was ready for a major international breakthrough; in addition to playing at NDours nightclub in Dakar, the Thiosanne, they had toured the United States, Great Britain, and Holland. Remembering his audiences in Dakar and his friends from the Medina, NDour made it a point to return there. A song he wrote, Medina, celebrates his old neighborhood and his old friends, who he told the Detroit News are still my friends today and are the people I have around me.

In 1985 NDour and Super Etoile released Immigres, which became a classic in the Afro-pop field. It was issued in the United States three years later. NDour increased his exposure to Western audiences in 1986 by appearing as a drummer on Paul Simons Graceland album. He recorded the Nelson Mandela album in Paris that year and toured the United States twice with Super Etoile, once on their own and once opening for Peter Gabriel. NDour sang backing vocals on Gabriels So album; in fact, Gabriel is the Western musician most responsible for bringing Youssou NDour to America and other Western nations.

NDour continued to tour with Peter Gabriel in 1988, reducing the size of his band to six pieces and a dancer. In the summer of that year, NDour played New Yorks first International Festival of the Arts at the Beacon Theatre. The influence of American music on NDour was revealed in his half-set of American pop and soul, during which singer Nona Hendryx joined him for a song in English and Wolof. New York Times writer Jon Parelis wrote of NDour, What makes Mr. NDour an international sensation, along with the dance rhythms of mbalax, is his unforgettable voice, a pure, pealing tenor that melds pop sincerity with the nuances of Islamic singing. Noting that mbalax has always combined international influences with Senegalese traditions, Parelis expressed his concern that American pop was diluting the effect of NDours singing and the bands rhythms. NDour would later echo this concern in Rolling Stone, saying Its a very difficult balance to keep the roots and bring in a bit of the Western world.

In the fall of 1988, NDour gained even greater international exposure as part of Amnesty Internationals Human Rights Now! world tour. At Londons Wembley Stadium, NDour joined pop stars Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Gabriel, and Tracy Chapman to sing Bob Marleys classic reggae song, Get Up, Stand Up. It was the start of a 44-day tour of five continents, including such nations as Hungary, India, Zimbabwe, Argentina, and Brazil. Only two U.S. dates were included, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Diverse Lyrical Content

NDours original songs feature political and social commentary. He also writes and performs songs with a personal lyric contentabout his old neighborhood and childhood pals, the youth of his country, and about roaming the countryside with a friend. In 1989 Virgin Records released an NDour album, The Lion (Gaiende). It was recorded in Paris and Dakar and was produced by George Acogny and David Sancious, who have combined backgrounds in jazz, pop, and rock. The Super Etoile, then an eight-piece band, was joined by some Western musicians, including pop-jazz saxophonist David Sanborn. Gabriel and NDour sing a duet on one of the albums tracks, Shaking The Tree. NDour sings in Wolof on the album, but English translations of the lyrics are provided. In a review of The Lion, New York Times commentator Parelis again expressed his concern that too much Western influence was creeping into NDours music and writing, Despite an undercurrent of Senegalese drums, the rippling vocal lines and dizzying polyrhythms that made Western listeners notice him are usually truncated.

By the fall of 1989, Super Etoile was back to full strength with 12 pieces for NDours club dates in the United States. The extra percussion and instrumentation helped restore the driving rhythm of NDours music. Reviewing a performance at New Yorks the Ritz, Parelis described the two percussionists whose doubletime and tripletime rhythms restored mbalaxs sense of swift, sprinting momentum. He noted that the intricate cross-rhythms combined ably with a firm downbeat to provide a mix of Western and Senegalese styles. The show ended with a songabout toxic wasteintended as a single from NDours Virgin album, Set.

Set deals with personal emotions, social problems, and political issues. NDour remarked on the record in the Detroit News: Most of the songs I heard in my youth were either love songs or traditional songs recounting the history of the people that I come frompraise songs, historical songs. The lyrics of my own works today I consider to be about the society in which I live, the world in which I live. I want my words to have an educational function.

Selected discography

Singles

Toxiques, Virgin, 1990.

Albums

Nelson Mandela, Polydor, 1986.

Immigres, Virgin, 1988.

The Lion (Gaiende), Virgin, 1989.

Set, Virgin, 1990.

Sources

Books

Graham, Ronnie, The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music, Da Capo, 1988.

Periodicals

Detroit Free Press, October 5, 1990.

Detroit Metro Times, October 3, 1990.

Detroit News, October 5, 1990.

Down Beat, May 1987.

New York Times, July 2, 1988; July 2, 1989; November 8, 1989.

Newsweek, September 12, 1988.

People, October 10, 1988.

Rolling Stone, July 13, 1989.

David Bianco

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Youssou N'Dour

Youssou N'Dour

Senegalese singer, songwriter, and bandleader Youssou N'Dour (born 1959) is a leading proponent of World Music, combining traditional music from his homeland with Western popular culture, Cuban rhythms, and contemporary instrumentation.

N'Dour is among the most popular practitioners of a Senegalese form of music called mbalax, which features the heavy rhythms normally associated with the indigenous mbung mbung drum, kora harp, and balafon xylophone instead being performed by electric guitars and keyboards. Mbalax also employs the traditional Senegalese vocal methods of tassou and bakou; which, respectively, resemble Western rap and rhythm-and-blues vocal techniques. N'Dour helped pioneer mbalax in the 1970s with tremendous success in his homeland and brought the music to international popularity in the 1980s when he toured Europe and the United States as a solo performer and with such Western musical artists as Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Sting, and Bruce Springsteen. His efforts to introduce mbalax music to international audiences is assisted by a stunning vocal ability that has been put to good effect on N'Dour's own recordings and on popular recordings by such artists as Gabriel and Harry Belafonte.

Cultural Influences

Born in Dakar, N'Dour was immersed in Senegal's cross-pollination of indigenous music with European traditions. Frequented by Portuguese explorers and French colonialists since the seventeenth-century because of its central location on the continent and its Atlantic Ocean coastline, Senegal became the base for French operations on the African continent in the nineteenth century. As a result, Dakar became a center of commerce that attracted different Central African cultures as well. For example, N'Dour's father was from the Serer culture, and his mother was from a culture known as the Tukulor. However, N'Dour has stressed that he is a Wolof, a national Senegalese culture arising from a language originated in Dakar, which embraces many of Senegal's varied traditional and popular cultural forms.

N'dour was the eldest of eight children. His father was a garage mechanic and his mother was a well-known traditional praise singer or griot. Griots inherit their historical songs and stories from a griot family member of the previous generation and then teach it to the griot of the following generation. Senegalese griots perform at religious ceremonies and family celebrations, combining the distinct vocal phrasings of the Wolof and other Senegalese languages with the singing style of Central African Islamic traditions. After her marriage, however, a female griot violated local customs, and she abandoned public performances.

N'Dour's voice filled the void left by his mother. He began singing at religious ceremonies such as traditional circumcisions, and word of his talent spread until he received an invitation to join the local band Diamono. When he was sixteen, he became one of the chief vocalists for Dakar's most popular band, the Star Band. Formed by Ibra Kasse, the Star Band achieved its popularity by adapting Cuban and Latin American songs into Wolof.

In 1977, N'Dour formed Etoile de Dakar, featuring many of the younger musicians from the Star Band. The music performed by Etoile de Dakar was a polyglot of griot and Wolof regionalism, Senegalese nationalism, Third World rhythms, and urban teenage bravado. Tremendously successful, Etoile de Dakar ended when co-founders El Hadji Faye and Badou Ndiaye left the band. N'Dour rebounded by forming Super Etoile de Dakar and rose to prominence as Senegal's most revered performer.

Much of the music performed by Super Etoile de Dakar displays the influence of N'Dour's adherence to the Mourides belief system. Mourides, one of several Senegalese Islamic groups, adhere to the teachings of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, a nineteenth-century teacher of the Koran who encouraged his followers to spend their lives preparing for salvation in the afterlife rather than resorting to violence against economic, cultural, and military oppression perpetrated by their enemies. This salvation is attained by following the instructions of Mourides holy men, called marabouts. N'Dour's songs frequently contain spiritual messages that encourage listeners to obey the instructions of Mourides's marabouts.

While sometimes spiritual, mbalax music also is a highly energetic music that marries Cuban and Latin American styles, and, as John Cho explained: "Melismatic upper-register vocals of Islamic muezzins with the accompanying Arabic modalities were introduced, resulting in a fresh harmonic mix." Mbalax features such percussive instruments as sabars (bass drums), djembes (drums with goatskin heads), and tamas, also known as talking drums. Cho noted: "The rapid-fire dialog between the singer and the tama player is often the climax of a song. … Mbalax also spawned its own high-stepping, high-energy dance called the ventilateur, which raised a ruckus among the pious because of the provocative manner in which the women hiked their boubous and flashed their forbidden legs."

International Stardom

The emigration of African audiences to European capitals created a ready-made audience for N'Dour outside Senegal. N'Dour adapted his music to accommodate French, Fulani, Serer, and English languages for the European tours Super Etoile de Dakar conducted in the early 1980s to fulfill the demands of Africans living in London and Paris. The tours provided international exposure for N'Dour's voice and mbalax music, leading to several fortuitous events.

Performing in London in 1984, Super Etoile de Dakar was seen by former Genesis frontman and successful solo artist Peter Gabriel. Gabriel's interest in World Music was evidenced on his third solo album, released in 1981, which featured African polyrhythms on the song "Games without Frontiers" and a song about slain South African leader Stephen Biko. Gabriel's positive impression of Super Etoile de Dakar's London performance inspired him to travel to Senegal, where he convinced N'Dour to contribute vocals to the song "In Your Eyes" on the English performer's So release. Gabriel also contracted Super Etoile de Dakar as the support act on his world tour. The song, "In Your Eyes," became a huge success for Gabriel after its inclusion on the soundtrack for a pivotal romantic scene in the Cameron Crowe film Say Anything, exposing N'Dour's voice and singing style to international audiences.

Another musical celebrity seeking to reinvigorate his creative impetus was American singer and songwriter Paul Simon. Simon immersed himself in the various musics of Africa while writing and recording the songs for his album Graceland. Among the artists Simon collaborated with on the album and subsequent tour were Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and N'Dour. Graceland was the most successful album of new material in Simon's solo career, furthering international recognition for N'Dour.

Human Rights Advocate

The exposure granted N'Dour and Super Etoiles de Dakar led to an invitation to participate in a 1986 worldwide tour of international artists commemorating South African political prisoner Nelson Mandela's release after twenty-five years. That same year, he wrote and recorded the song "Nelson Mandela." In 1988, he headlined the Amnesty International tour with Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, and Tracy Chapman. "Sometimes I feel like a missionary," he told a BBC reporter. "I have a mission to develop something, to bring people together, bring things together, to make things happen at home." In 1990, he contributed a song to the video music project Viva Mandela and performed at a concert in Mandela's honor at London's Wembley Arena.

N'Dour's financial success has enabled him to assist his Senegalese countrypeople. His ownership of a newspaper, a recording studio, a record label, a nightclub, and a radio station allows him to provide employment opportunities. "All these things happening now—my studio, my label, my club, or my radio station—is happening because I'm already a musician," he told the BBC. "My newspaper is not my newspaper. It's just a kind of help, to solve the employment problem and to give the journalists the chance to do what they really want to do."

N'Dour's humanitarian concerns led to his naming as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in the 1990s. In 2000, he was named Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Food and Organisation.

International Recording Star

Although N'Dour was an established recording star in Senegal, it was not until the late 1980s that he began releasing music on an international label. Released in 1989, The Lion, features the collaborative single "Shaking the Tree" with Peter Gabriel. The Set, released in 1991, furthered N'Dour's reputation as an artist with international appeal. Brian Cullman noted: "If any third-world performer has a real shot at the sort of universal popularity last enjoyed by Bob Marley, it's Youssou, a singer with a voice so extraordinary that the history of Africa seems locked inside it."

N'Dour received two Grammy Award nominations and sales of more than six-hundred-thousand for his 1994 album, The Guide, which includes guests Branford Marsalis and Neneh Cherry. His recording of "Seven Seconds," a duet with Cherry, sold more than one million copies and was named the number one song of 1994 at the MTV Awards Europe. In 1998, he wrote the official anthem of the soccer World Cup finals, "France '98," which he also performed with Belgian singer Axelle Red.

N'Dour took a hiatus from recording for five years before releasing Joko: From Village to Town in 2000. The album contains song collaborations with Sting and Peter Gabriel as well as several songs co-produced by Wyclef Jean that introduce American hip-hop elements to N'Dour's mbalax. "I try to bring things out in the modern way and in the urban way and musically I create a lot of connections," N'Dour said.

Books

Broughton, Simon, Mark Ellingham, and Richard Trillo, editors, The Rough Guide: World Music, Volume I: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Rough Guides Ltd, 1999.

Romanowski, Patricia and Holly George-Warren, editors, The New Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1995.

Online

Cho, John, "Senegal: Baobabs, Boubous, and Mbalax," Roots World, 1996, http://www.rootsworld.com/rw/feature/cho-mbalax.html.

McLane, Daisann, "Youssou N'Dour Eyes Open," Rolling Stone, No. 638, http://www.rollingstone.com/recordings/.

"Youssou N'Dour," African Music Encyclopedia,http://www.africanmusic.org/artists/youssou.html.

"Youssou N'Dour," Leigh Bailey Artists of Woodstock,http://www.woodstock.com/html/biow0045.

"Youssou N'Dour: Africa's Music Missionary," BBC Homepage, May 24, 2000, http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid-761000/761088.stm. □

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N'Dour, Youssou

YOUSSOU N'DOUR

Born: Dakar, Senegal, 1 October 1959

Genre: World

Best-selling album since 1990: The Guide (Wommat) (1994)


Singer, drummer, bandleader, and composer Youssou N'Dour is the most important, successful, and influential African performer on the world music scene. A superstar and national hero in his native Senegal, N'Dour originated and coined the term "mbalax," that unique style of Senegalese dance music that took the music world by storm in the mid-1980s and has remained popular in the three decades since N'Dour began performing it.

Born in the rough Medina section of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, N'Dour's father was a mechanic and his mother was a female gawlo or griot, a West African troubadour who would sing of the region's royal history, family sagas, and oral traditions. Encouraged by his mother, N'Dour began singing as a child and became sought after for circumcision parties and gatherings. By the age of twelve, he was performing in theater, in music groups, and on radio broadcasts; by age fourteen, N'Dour had already earned the nickname "The Little Prince of Dakar."

In 1975, after joining the Star Band, the best-known Senegalese pop band of the time, the sixteen-year-old N'Dour became the star attraction of the act before forming his own breakaway group, Étoile de Dakar, two years later, and then Super Étoile de Dakar in 1981. The unique feature of these bands was that they drew upon the traditional sabar drum ensemble, which uses pitched drums dialoguing in suddenly fluctuating cross-rhythms and transposing these rhythms to electric lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and synthesizers. The rhythm guitar usually takes the role of the rhythm of the mbung mbung drum, and N'Dour began referring to this style of music as mbalax, the Wolof word for rhythm; N'Dour is credited with the invention of mbalax, which remains the dominant style of Senegalese music.

When Super Étoile began performing in the West, the mbalax craze moved with it and ignited enormous interest in this unique import from Senegal and the singer so associated with it. Peter Gabriel heard N'Dour at a London club in 1984 and was so taken with him that he used him on his So (1986) album, singing a duet with him on the hit single "In Your Eyes," which was also later used in
the film Say Anything (1989). Gabriel generously had N'Dour accompany him on his subsequent world tour both to sing with Gabriel and to open the shows with the Super Étoile; Gabriel also used N'Dour in his score for Martin Scorsese's film The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

With the release of the album Immigrés (1985) in Europe and in the United States (1988), N'Dour became firmly established as the most popular African performer on the world music scene, a reputation also bolstered by his drumming contributions on Paul Simon's Graceland (1986). In 1988 N'Dour performed as part of Amnesty International's "Human Rights Now!" campaign, a forty-four-day, five-continent world tour kicked off by a special London concert in which N'Dour performed with Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, and Tracy Chapman at Wembley Stadium.

With the album Lion (1989), which includes a duet with Gabriel, N'Dour began deliberately courting Western audiences quite effectively with glossy production values and some token English lyrics while continuing to sing in French and his native Wolof. That approach continued with Eyes Open (1992), recorded for director Spike Lee's record label. By the time of The Guide (Wommat) (1994), N'Dour's trademark mbalax sound was starting to take a backseat to even bigger production values and ever-increasing Western-style pop and rock elements; the multiplatinum single "7 Seconds" was recorded with hip-hop singer Neneh Cherry, jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis makes an appearance, and a cover of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom" is included.

Joko (2000) actually appeared in two configurations: an American version subtitled The Link, which includes pop duets with Sting and Wyclef Jean, and an international release subtitled From Village to Town, which omits Sting and Jean and substitutes genuine mbalax. This marketing strategy continues on N'Dour's releases of Afro-pop albums for Western audiences and smaller, Senegalese-oriented releases on his own Jololi label.

Just as many critics had dismissed N'Dour as having sold out and abandoned his African roots, Nothing's in Vain (2002) appeared as a largely acoustic and the most African-oriented Western album N'Dour had released in over a decade. Yet even when N'Dour chooses to embed himself within the hackneyed trappings of Western pop music, he is able to generate interest because of the sheer resonance and tonal beauty of his tenor voice.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Nelson Mandela (Polygram, 1990); Set (Virgin, 1992); Eyes Open (Sony, 1992); Lion (Virgin re-release, 1992); The Guide (Wommat) (Chaos/Columbia, 1994); Immigrés (Worldbeat/Virgin re-release, 1995); Ba Tay (Jololi, 1995); Inedits 8485 (Celluloid/Melodie, 1997); Best of the 80s (Melodie, 1998); Special Fin D'annee Plus (Jololi, 1999); Joko (Nonesuch/Elektra, 2000); Le Grand Bel, Vol. 1 and 2 (Jololi, 2000); Lii (Jololi, 2000); Rewmi (Jololi, 2000); St. Louis (Jololi, 2000); Nothing's in Vain (Nonesuch/Elektra, 2002); The Rough Guide to Youssou N'Dour & Étolie de Dakar (World Music Network, 2002). With Peter Gabriel: So (Universal re-release, 2002). With Paul Simon: Graceland (Warner Bros. re-release, 1997). Soundtracks: Passion: Music for the Last Temptation of Christ (Geffen, 1989); The Wild Thornberrys Movie (Jive, 2002).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

J. Cathcart, Hey You! A Portrait of Youssou N'Dour (Whitney, England, 1989); Y. N'Dour and É. De Dakar, The Rough Guide to Youssou N'Dour & Étolie De Dakar, abridged edition (New York, 2003).

WEBSITE:

www.youssou.com.

dennis polkow

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"N'Dour, Youssou." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"N'Dour, Youssou." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/ndour-youssou