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Youssou N'Dour

Born in Dakar in 1959, N'Dour is a singer endowed with remarkable range and poise, and, as a composer, bandleader, and producer, with a prodigious musical intelligence. The New York Times has described his voice as “an arresting tenor, deployed with prophetic authority,” one that “soars heavenward with passion and then wafts tenderly toward earth.”

As a craftsman of an inimitable brand of ensemble music, N'Dour absorbs the entire diversity of the Senegalese musical spectrum in his work, often filtering his country’s musical heritage through a modernist lens of genre-defying rock or pop music from outside Senegalese culture.

Named “African Artist of the Century” by the English publication fRoots at the threshold of the year 2000, and to the “TIME 100” in 2007, TIME magazine’s annual list of “the hundred men and women whose power, talent, or moral example is transforming the world," N'Dour has made mbalax famous throughout the world during nearly 30 years of recording and touring outside of Senegal with his band, the Super Étoile.

National Public Radio and Rolling Stone contributor Robert Christgau, the dean of American rock music critics, has consistently clamored for an ever-wider recognition of N’Dour’s gifts, variously calling N'Dour “the world's greatest pop vocalist” and, most recently, “the world's most consistent record maker this decade.” He has written that N’Dour is “the one African moving inexorably toward the world-pop fusion everyone else theorizes about.”

Peter Gabriel, whose duet with N'Dour on a song called “In Your Eyes” on Gabriel's album So (Virgin/Geffen, 1985) defined a truly memorable moment in the history of rock, has proclaimed N'Dour, as a singer, simply “one of the best alive.”

N'Dour solidified his leadership of the Super Étoile by 1979, having retained the essential personnel from earlier incarnations of the group, and he soon thereafter launched an international career with the help of a Senegalese taxi drivers' fraternal association in France and a small circle of supporters in England.

The beginnings in Dakar had been less auspicious. As a willowy teenager, N'Dour had to resort to hustling pirate gigs in the parking lots outside certain of the city's dance clubs to which he and his bandmates had uneasy or no access, his distinctive voice eventually earning him a reputation as a boy wonder and the occasional live amateur-hour slot on the National Radio. As early as age twelve, N'Dour had also been performing at neighborhood religious-ceremonial occasions in the hard-bitten Medina section of the city where he grew up as the first-born child of a pious auto mechanic, Elimane N'Dour, and his wife, Ndèye Sokhna Mboup, herself of griot origin and an occasional performer in the ceremonies of the Medina neighborhoods.

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Album Review

Youssou N'Dour: Fatteliku

Read "Fatteliku" reviewed by James Nadal

The mysterious rhythms and melodies which constitute the music of Africa, has been, and continues to be, a vital source of influence and inspiration to the rest of the world. Though African artists have always been active and recognized in their homelands, it was through the phenomenon of what is termed “world music" in the 1980's, that African music reached a global audience. In the forefront of this movement was Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour, who transformed the native resonances of ...

African Jazz

Youssou N'Dour: Egypt

Read "Youssou N'Dour: Egypt" reviewed by AAJ Staff

Youssou N'Dour Egypt Nonesuch Records 2004

Youssou N'Dour is as close to an international megastar as African musicians get, having earned first a massive fan base in his home of Senegal and then a worldwide following on the heels of his work with Peter Gabriel and others. His music (termed mbalax, after the Wolof word for rhythm) incorporates the traditions of West Africa within a truly global sound, often drawing from the ...

Album Review

Youssou N: 7 Seconds: The Best Of Youssou N

Read "7 Seconds: The Best Of Youssou N" reviewed by Jim Santella

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 ...

Album Review

Youssou N'Dour: Joko (The Link)

Read "Joko (The Link)" reviewed by AAJ Staff

If there is one icon in the fertile ground of Senegalese popular music, it is Youssou N'Dour. His career exploded from early tapes circulated throughout his home country to beautifully produced CDs snapped up all over the world. It's a tribute to his originality, his keen marketing sense, and the still-growing affinity of Americans and Europeans for so-called “World Music." Best of all, N'Dour has sparked and fertilized the careers of several innovative younger musicians. His 2000 record Joko represents ...

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2011 Festival Awards - The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal Honours Sade, Stanley Clarke, Youssou N'dour, Jean-Pierre Zanella and George Wein

2011 Festival Awards - The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal Honours Sade, Stanley Clarke, Youssou N'dour, Jean-Pierre Zanella and George Wein

Source: AAJ Staff

Montreal—This year, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal highlights the exceptional contributions to music made by Sade, Stanley Clarke, Youssou N'Dour, Jean-Pierre Zanella, as well as the remarkable oeuvre of George Wein. During this 32nd edition of the Festival, our winners will be presented, respectively, with the Ella Fitzgerald Award, Miles Davis Award, Antonio Carlos Jobim Award, Oscar Peterson Award and Bruce Lundvall Award. 2011 Ella Fitzgerald Award: Sade Sade is the 13th recipient of the Ella Fitzgerald Award, ...


Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Real World Records


7 Seconds: The Best...

Columbia Records


Joko (The Link)

Nonesuch Records


In Concert 560 -...

Magnetic Records


The Rubberband Man /...

Magnetic Records


Nelson Mandela

Magnetic Records



Baaba Maal
guitar and vocals

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