Sunday, August 12, 2007

Youssou N’Dour

As part of my current studies, I have just discovered the poet, singer and songwriter, Youssou N’Dour.

My introduction to him was by way of a song he wrote in 2002, entitled So Many Men. The reaction the lyrics and music had on me was immediate, leaving me wondering how I have missed knowing about him for so many years!

Youssou N’Dour was born in 1959 in Dakar, Senegal. He describes himself as a ‘modern griot’. A griot or jali (in the Wolof language of the Senegalese) is a West African poet or wandering musician.

N’Dour’s music is a wonderful mixture of traditional Senegalese dance rhythms, saxophone solos, guitar melodies, percussion, lyrics in English, French and Wolof, and Sufi-inspired Muslim religious chant. He draws on influences as wide ranging as samba, jazz, soul and hip-hop. With his versatile tenor voice, the effect is both stunning and inspiring.

(For those, like me, who are not instantly familiar with Sufism, according to Wikipedia it is a mystic tradition within Islam, encompassing a diverse range of beliefs and practices dedicated to divine love and the cultivation of the heart.)

Understandably, the artist is a leading political light in Africa, using his music to address several social and political issues. These have ranged from the release of Nelson Mandela, support for Amnesty International, performing in the Live 8 concerts and staring as the African-British abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano, in the film Amazing Grace, which chronicles the efforts of William Wilberforce to end slavery in the British Empire.

I cannot but recommend this accomplished poet and musician to you. Starting with the song So Many Men would, I think, be as fine a way as any to approach his music. However, he has many albums to go at – many of which are, courtesy of Amazon, already en route to my door.

No comments:

The Power of Love

Looking through my writing archives for the month of March, I came across the following article, initially published in my weekly column for...