The music of Youssou N’Dour gives you warm and golden dreams of a distant world. The style that he plays is called mbalax. It’s a blend of caribean rhythms, pop and traditional griot music and is very popular in his home country.
Many years before I even dreamed of coming to Africa, I used to listen to his tapes. His music has a way to pull you in and capture your senses. Traditional drum beats, exotic melodies and his hypnotizing voice pick you up and carry you to the heart of Africa.
Youssou’s songs take your soul to this continent long before your body arrives. To understand what I mean, click the player on the right and listen to Birima, one of my most favorite tracks.
His Biography And Career
Youssou was born on 1st October 1959 in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. The son of a car mechanic grew up in Medina, a hard-bitten part of the city. His musical talent already became obvious as a teenager, when performing in the parking lots outside the city’s dance clubs.
Since the 1970s, Youssou has shaped the music style mbalax more than anybody else. In the 1980s, he and his band The Super Etoile even started making it famous internationally. Youssou’s awesome talent and his numerous albums brought him global fame. The New York Times called him “one of the world’s greatest singers” and countless fans around the world agree.
But Youssou is more than just a music star:
Youssou is also a very respected authority in Senegal. Coming from a family of griots,he is traditionally responsible to say all the necessary words that can shape his society in a positive way.
Youssou cares about what’s happening in Senegal and the world and is always actively involved. His songs appeal to the people’s morality and responsibility. The words on his album Set for instance had an enormous impact on the Senegalese youth in 1990:
In response to the album, they started the movement “Set-Setaal” (be clean). Without any help of the government, they cleaned up the ghettos, improved water supply, sanitation and the housing situation.
When you listen to Youssou’s songs you’ll feel the influential power of his music, even without understanding a word he says. No wonder he was called one of the 100 most influential people in the world!