|Biographical detail : ||West Africa’s music star whose seamless tapestry of rhythm weaves a medina of the mind.
Youssou N’Dour is one of a generation of West African music stars to cross their own native traditions. He went international with the collaboration of other singers on 1994’s huge international hit, Seven Seconds.
N’Dour’s album, Egypt, recorded in Cairo and Dakar in 1999 with the Fathi Salama Orchestra, but not released until 2004 has crossed the Maghreb to combine the sounds and instruments of West and North Africa. His spectacular devotional music – the Senegalese title of the album is Sant Allah (Thanks God) – conjures a medina of the mind with a seamless 90-minute performance that builds upon the eight songs from the album.
With Egypt, N’Dour has left behind his Afro-Cuban rhythm music for a tapestry of sound that combines sweeping Arab melodies with pulsing, interweaving West African percussion. His voice, with its warm, intimate tones, remarkable range and intense humanity becomes a vehicle of faith in a cycle of songs that praise the mystical Sufi schools of Islam and have centred post-independence life in Senegal.
He has performed to free Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, when the elder statesman had been jailed for 27 years under the Apartheid government.
A Grammy award-winning musician, N’Dour also participated in the Live Aid concerts to end poverty and has been a Unicef ambassador.
Now N’Dour has turned his focus to combating Malaria, a disease that annually kills one million people, more than 80 per cent of whom are in Africa. He has just released a single – “Fight Malaria” – and launched a campaign with the charity Malaria No More.
A successful businessman in Senegal, Youssou owns a television channel, a radio station and a daily newspaper.
Son of a car-mechanic father, Youssou N’Dour was born in Dakar and began singing as a child performer at neighbourhood gatherings in the tough Medina section of Dakar, Senegal, West Africa.