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  • Friday, November 16, 2007
    Youssou N'Dour's "Exhilarating" Travels
    Youri Lenquette

    When Youssou N'Dour performed in upstate New York in 1994, he did so before a crowd of more than 150,000 at Woodstock ’94. This Sunday night, he’ll return to the region to play before a slightly more intimate, though likely no less enthusiastic crowd, at the Kingston, NY, Ulster Performing Arts Center. But as the town’s Daily Freeman reports, at least a few reminders of the spirit and sound of the original event at Yasgur's Farm in 1969 remain.

    In an interview with the paper's Blaise Schweitzer, Youssou recognizes the similarities Schweitzer points to between the sound of Senegalese mbalax that made him famous and that of the legendary Jimi Hendrix: "I think it's really smoking. It's something really tough and electrical."

    As renowned as Youssou has become around the world for his music, he often puts his powerful voice to use on behalf of important social and political issues as well. For Youssou, music and activism are often inextricably linked, leading him to seek out other, similarly motivated artists, like Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen.

    "I was really impressed about the energy of Bruce, and the simplicity, also," Youssou tells Schweitzer. The two toured together in 1988 on behalf of Amnesty International, a powerful experience for Youssou. Writes Schweitzer: "Springsteen's humanity, and willingness to talk about current events, resonated with N'Dour. He can't see separating his own interests in human rights from his stage presence." More recently for Amnesty, the Senegalese singer contributed his own interpretation of John Lennon’s "Jealous Guy" to the Instant Karma compilation supporting efforts to save Darfur.

    Though some have called for Youssou to move towards even greater political involvementsuggesting he seek the Senegalese presidencyhe remains committed to the powerful vehicle that is his music.

    Music and politics come together in a different way on the next stop of Youssou’s US tour, in the nation’s capital, where he’ll perform at the Kennedy Center, Monday, November 19. In today’s Washington Post, writer Mark Jenkins recognizes Youssou as “the greatest contemporary singer from Senegal and possibly all of Africa.” And while he “travels the world with and in his music ... N'Dour's most interesting ventures mesh Senegalese styles not with Anglo-American pop, but with other African music,” as he does in the new album, Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take). In his review of the record, Jenkins says “the album's sound is intricate, indigenous and characteristically exhilarating.”

    Talk of those indigenous sounds surfaces in an interview Youssou gave to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s A.D. Amorosi. (Philadelphia is the next stop on the tour, at the Kimmel Center, Tuesday, November 20.)

    "From my start, there were sounds close to me that I didn't touch because of their proximity," Youssou tells Amorosi of his career’s earliest days. But, as he did with his previous album, Egypt, with Rokku Mi Rokka, he turns his gaze inward, this time at the music of northern Senegal and the give and take that has gone on for centuries between Africa and the West: "When the slaves left Africa, they left us this music,” he says. “They left us blues. It is the root of everything you [America] and Jamaica and Cuba has." He also hopes that part of the cultural exchange will be a recognition of the positive aspects of his religion, which are so often overlooked: "I really want to bring the message of love that is Islam to people; bring something new to that familiar face."

    For tour information, click here.

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Youssou N'Dour's "Exhilarating" Travels

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on November 15, 2007 - 10:19pm
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Friday, November 16, 2007 - 00:15
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When Youssou N'Dour performed in upstate New York in 1994, he did so before a crowd of more than 150,000 at Woodstock ’94. This Sunday night, he’ll return to the region to play before a slightly more intimate, though likely no less enthusiastic crowd, at the Kingston, NY, Ulster Performing Arts Center. But as the town’s Daily Freeman reports, at least a few reminders of the spirit and sound of the original event at Yasgur's Farm in 1969 remain. The Washington Post recognizes Youssou as “the greatest contemporary singer from Senegal and possibly all of Africa," and of his new album, Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take): “the album's sound is intricate, indigenous and characteristically exhilarating.”

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When Youssou N'Dour performed in upstate New York in 1994, he did so before a crowd of more than 150,000 at Woodstock ’94. This Sunday night, he’ll return to the region to play before a slightly more intimate, though likely no less enthusiastic crowd, at the Kingston, NY, Ulster Performing Arts Center. But as the town’s Daily Freeman reports, at least a few reminders of the spirit and sound of the original event at Yasgur's Farm in 1969 remain.

In an interview with the paper's Blaise Schweitzer, Youssou recognizes the similarities Schweitzer points to between the sound of Senegalese mbalax that made him famous and that of the legendary Jimi Hendrix: "I think it's really smoking. It's something really tough and electrical."

As renowned as Youssou has become around the world for his music, he often puts his powerful voice to use on behalf of important social and political issues as well. For Youssou, music and activism are often inextricably linked, leading him to seek out other, similarly motivated artists, like Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen.

"I was really impressed about the energy of Bruce, and the simplicity, also," Youssou tells Schweitzer. The two toured together in 1988 on behalf of Amnesty International, a powerful experience for Youssou. Writes Schweitzer: "Springsteen's humanity, and willingness to talk about current events, resonated with N'Dour. He can't see separating his own interests in human rights from his stage presence." More recently for Amnesty, the Senegalese singer contributed his own interpretation of John Lennon’s "Jealous Guy" to the Instant Karma compilation supporting efforts to save Darfur.

Though some have called for Youssou to move towards even greater political involvementsuggesting he seek the Senegalese presidencyhe remains committed to the powerful vehicle that is his music.

Music and politics come together in a different way on the next stop of Youssou’s US tour, in the nation’s capital, where he’ll perform at the Kennedy Center, Monday, November 19. In today’s Washington Post, writer Mark Jenkins recognizes Youssou as “the greatest contemporary singer from Senegal and possibly all of Africa.” And while he “travels the world with and in his music ... N'Dour's most interesting ventures mesh Senegalese styles not with Anglo-American pop, but with other African music,” as he does in the new album, Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take). In his review of the record, Jenkins says “the album's sound is intricate, indigenous and characteristically exhilarating.”

Talk of those indigenous sounds surfaces in an interview Youssou gave to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s A.D. Amorosi. (Philadelphia is the next stop on the tour, at the Kimmel Center, Tuesday, November 20.)

"From my start, there were sounds close to me that I didn't touch because of their proximity," Youssou tells Amorosi of his career’s earliest days. But, as he did with his previous album, Egypt, with Rokku Mi Rokka, he turns his gaze inward, this time at the music of northern Senegal and the give and take that has gone on for centuries between Africa and the West: "When the slaves left Africa, they left us this music,” he says. “They left us blues. It is the root of everything you [America] and Jamaica and Cuba has." He also hopes that part of the cultural exchange will be a recognition of the positive aspects of his religion, which are so often overlooked: "I really want to bring the message of love that is Islam to people; bring something new to that familiar face."

For tour information, click here.

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Youssou N'Dour

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