Senegalese superstar, singer-songwriter and activist Youssou NDOUR brings his rousing music and message to the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College on Tuesday, October 23 in Spaulding Auditorium.
For 30 years, NDOUR has been a beacon within African music, “a singer with a voice so extraordinary that the history of Africa seems locked inside it” (Rolling Stone). He and his band concoct a sublime mixture of compulsive rhythms, jangling guitars, traditional Senegalese sound, Cuban-influenced jazz and funk. His supple, golden tenor—named one of the world’s 50 great voices by NPR—not only resonates with the griot lineage into which he was born, but engages the wider world in causes of human rights and food security. This is NDOUR’s Hop debut.
NDOUR’s Hop visit is one of a set of artistic experiences at the Hop this season that draw audiences into the African experience, both on the continent and in diaspora. Other experiences are the term-long residency and November 7 concert by Burkinabe percussionist Mamadou Diabate, the Department of Theater’s production of ‘Eclipsed’ by Dana Gurira (November 2-11), and National Theater’s ‘Barber Shop Chronicles‘ (January 17-19).
NDOUR’s prolific output communicates Africa’s identity, heritage and hopes, often with a political edge. Born in Dakar in 1959, Ndour grew up singing alongside his mother at religious ceremonies and studying theater as a young teenager. His astounding voice won him live slots on national radio and a boy-wonder status, which he exploited by hustling for gigs outside nightclubs like the Thiossane, the Copacabana-style nightclub he bought in his 20s and still owns today. At 18, after stints fronting popular local outfits, Star Band and Etoile de Dakar, Ndour formed Le Super Etoile de Dakar. He began writing songs with lyrics that touched on migration, African identity and the beliefs of the Mourides, the peace-loving branch of Islam to which he ascribes, as well as that of contemporary African leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Kocc Barma Fall.
By the mid 1980’s, he was a superstar in Senegal but relatively unknown outside of Africa. That changed in 1986 with his collaboration with pop artist Peter Gabriel on the latter’s platinum-selling 1986 album So and the subsequent world tours that NDOUR opened with his band Le Super Etoile de Dakar.
As his musical fame grew, NDOUR also became a powerful cultural icon in Senegal and the continent at large. Starting in 1985, he has lent his voice to several Amnesty International fundraising efforts. In collaboration with UNICEF, he started Project Joko to open internet cafés in Africa and to connect Senegalese communities around the world. This and much more, unsurprisingly, led NDOUR to a political career. In 2012 and 2013, he served first as Senegal’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, and then as Senegal’s Minister of Tourism and Leisure. NDOUR is proprietor of L’Observateur, one of the widest-circulation newspapers in Senegal, the radio station RFM (Radio Future Medias) and the TV channel TFM.
Ndour has made more than 30 albums including the Grammy-winning Egypt (2005). In July 1993, his composition Africa Opera premiered in Paris. In 1994, he released his biggest international hit single, the trilingual “7 Seconds”, a duet sung with Neneh Cherry. He wrote and performed the official anthem of the 1998 FIFA World Cup with Axelle Red “La Cour des Grands.”
Listen to the break-out song “7 Seconds” here:
The renaissance man now brings his talent and star power to Spaulding.