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Sample Track 1:
"Bamba" from Dakar-Kingston
Sample Track 2:
"Darr Diarr" from Dakar-Kingston
Layer 2

More About Youssou Ndour

Youssou Ndour is one of today’s most celebrated African musicians, widely considered to be Senegal’s preeminent cultural figure.  He is a singer, songwriter, and composer, and his works and style have influenced musicians around the world.  His music blends traditional rhythms of Africa with a wide range of music including Cuban samba, hip-hop, jazz and soul.  The New York Times has referred to him as “West Africa’s cultural ambassador to the world.”

Mr. Ndour was born in Dakar, Senegal, in western Africa.  He began singing at neighborhood gatherings as a child and, by his mid-teens, was performing regularly with the most successful group in Senegal at the time, the Star Band.  He began to gain a following for his performances of the Senegalese dance music called mbalax.  Mbalax is a complex fusion of popular Western music and dance such as jazz, soul, Latin, and rock, blended with sabar, the traditional drumming and dance music of Senegal.  In 1979, he formed his own group, the Etoile de Dakar, which evolved into the breakaway band Super Etoile.  This group performs its own unique creations and has developed a modern African style that has had far-reaching influence.

Introduced to American audiences by Peter Gabriel on his So album and Paul Simon on Graceland, Mr. Ndour and his band subsequently began a series of collaborations with them and other Western musicians.  He released his first international album, The Lion, in 1989, and followed it with Set, in 1990.  A world tour with Gabriel and the two albums established his place in the world of music and garnered notice from Rolling Stone and other music critics. 

In 1991, he signed with Spike Lee’s record label, and produced Eyes Open the following year, which won a Grammy nomination, further enhancing his reputation. The lyrics addressed a range of themes from media, military, unwanted childbirth, and the difficulties of African identity, all against the backdrop of what had become Mr. Ndour’s musical signature of traditional African elements blended with Caribbean, jazz, and pop music motifs. 

In 2004, he released Egypt, an album of Islamic music that both celebrated Islam and advocated tolerance of the religion.  Although he recorded the album prior to 9/11, he delayed its release to avoid an association between the music and the attacks.  Nonetheless, the album sparked controversy when it was released, both from those who felt it was an unsuitable representation of Islamic music and from those who felt it inappropriate to promote Islam through pop culture.  In the face of criticism and boycott, Mr. Ndour remained steadfast in his conviction that the music communicated a message of tolerance and peace.  The album gained widespread acclaim in the international arena and won a Grammy award in 2005.  A subsequent documentary about the album, Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love, followed him through two years of performances and conversations around the world. 

Mr. Ndour has used his music to benefit causes about which he cares deeply.  In 1985, he organized a concert for the release of Nelson Mandela.  He has staged benefit events for malaria relief  and has performed for Amnesty International concerts and in three Live 8 concerts.  He serves as a United Nations goodwill ambassador.