All recorded in the 1990s, the pieces on this compilation include several items not previously available, as well as memorable performances already released on Youssou N’Dour’s albums. His arrangement of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” available previously on a Sony/Japan single issue, is sung in English. This happy tune brings the “universal language” theory to life with its world music ensemble and the singer’s carefree spirit.
Elsewhere, N’Dour creates contemporary reflections that are surrounded by the rhythmic and harmonic machinations of his large ensemble. Singing in the Fulani and Wolof languages of his native Senegal, he places an emphasis on storytelling and oral history. Some of the lyrics are translated into English and reprinted in the album’s liner notes.
With Neneh Cherry, he sings in two languages of tolerance and equality among peoples. With a true ambassadorial spirit, the duo offers appropriate advice for all. In any language, their positive approach to the world’s problems makes sense. A lyrical violin solo by Sacha Skarbek adds lush, melodic caresses to the heartfelt song. With Branford Marsalis, N’Dour interprets a lovely ballad, “Without a Smile,” in Wolof. His original piece offers a blues message laden with the troubles of Nature and wondering how we can cope with it.
These versions of "Set” and “Oh Boy” have never been released before. Both pieces, recorded at an August 3, 1994 live performance, include a smaller band around the singer as he interprets folk music that could have come from any corner of the globe. He presents happy music, dance music, and lively rhythms to move the body. The spontaneity and ad hoc creativity of jazz are only a small part of N’Dour’s formula, but he certainly does swing with a world beat enthusiasm fit for a king.