Part of: Around the Globe
Youssou NDOUR’s roots in Senegalese traditional music and griot storytelling have remained the hallmark of his artistic personality. A daring innovator and staunch protector of the unique “Dakar overgroove,” NDOUR fashions a sound that is both characteristically Senegalese and outward-looking, a contagiously exciting synthesis of musical languages. Rolling Stone has called NDOUR’s stunning tenor “a voice so extraordinary that the history of Africa seems locked inside it.”
Born in 1959, NDOUR spent two years in street theater before beginning his music career at age 13. After leaving the Étoile de Dakar group in 1981, he founded the Super Étoile de Dakar ensemble. A few years later, NDOUR and the Super Étoile made their Parisian debut at Africa Fête, the cultural festival organized by music producer Mamadou Konté.
After meeting Peter Gabriel in 1984, NDOUR joined Band Aid to help raise funds for Ethiopia. Four years later, he sang at Wembley Stadium to celebrate the 70th birthday of Nelson Mandela, and then alongside Sting, Tracy Chapman, and Bruce Springsteen for Amnesty International. He became known worldwide after the 1994 release of his song “7 Seconds,” a duet with Neneh Cherry.
In 2004, NDOUR celebrated his newfound Sufism with the release of the album Egypt, recorded in Cairo with an Egyptian orchestra conducted by Fati Salama. The following year, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
Released in 2017, Africa Rekk! (Africa and that’s final!) is what NDOUR calls “a Pan-African album.” As he explains, “It’s the first of its kind since Egypt, when I showed that Africa was one, from the Cape to Algiers and as far as Cairo.” It features mbalax, the Wolof beat, but as part of a blend, “for instance with rumba and other rhythms—it’s an umbilical cord that links all of Africa. It’s Africa celebrated, with all its modern and traditional compartments.”
Hailed as “one of the world’s greatest singers” by The New York Times, Youssou NDOUR has remained a revered musical figure in Senegal and around the globe throughout his nearly 40-year career.