Think globally, dance locally: Youssou N’Dour turns fifty

Youssou N'Dour
Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour

THE ARTIST WHOM ROLLING Stone Magazine has called “perhaps the most famous singer alive” is celebrating his fiftieth birthday today. Youssou N’Dour was born in Dakar, Senegal to pious Sufi Muslim parents on October 1, 1959. He got his start performing at local gatherings in the capital’s rough-and-tumble Medina area, sometimes playing pirate gigs on the parking lots outside Dakar night clubs. At age twelve he was already performing on stage and on radio with the popular Star Band. In 1979 N’Dour set up his own group, which he called Étoile de Dakar, the later Super Étoile, which soon became the best-known band in all of Africa.

N’Dour is a pioneer of Afrobeat and a genre of Senegalese music called Mbalax, which combines jazz, Latin, soul, rock, and traditional West African rhythms and is sung in Wolof. His unique version of African fusion also contains a vital spiritual element. N’Dour is descended from a long line of griots – the traditional Sufi bards of Western Africa – on his mother’s side of the family and he has made a lifelong study of Sufi music and literature. …



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