Youssou N'Dour

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Youssou N'Dour (French pronunciation: [jusu nˈduʁ]; born 1 October 1959 in Dakar) is a Senegalese singer, percussionist and occasional actor. In 2004, Rolling Stone described him as, in Senegal and much of Africa, "perhaps the most famous singer alive."[1] He helped develop a style of popular music in Senegal, known in the Serer language as mbalax. He is the subject of the award-winning films Return to Goree directed by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud and Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, which were released theatrically around the world.

Contents

Background

Mbalax is a blend of the country's old traditional griot percussion and praise-singing rooted in Serer Saloum and adopted by Wolof which is sometimes blended with Afro-Cuban and Haitian kompa arrangements and flavors which made the return trip from the Caribbean to West Africa in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s and have flourished in West Africa ever since. Beginning in the mid-1970s the resulting mix was modernized with a gloss of more complex indigenous Senegalese dance rhythms, roomy and melodic guitar and saxophone solos, chattering talking-drum soliloquies and, on occasion, Sufi-inspired Muslim religious chant. This created a new music which was at turns nostalgic, restrained and stately, or celebratory, explosively syncopated and funky. Younger Senegalese musicians steeped in Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, James Brown, and the whole range of American jazz, soul, and rock music, which Senegal's cosmopolitan capital, Dakar, had enthusiastically absorbed, were rediscovering their heritage and seeking out traditional performers, particularly singers and talking drummers, to join their bands. (The griots—musicians, praise-singers and storyteller-historians—comprise a distinct hereditary caste in Wolof and Serer society and throughout West Africa.) As it emerged from this period of fruitful musical turbulence, mbalax would eventually find in Youssou N'Dour the performer who has arguably had more to do with its shaping than any other individual.

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