For 30 years, Youssou N’Dour has been a mesmerising beacon within African music. His golden tenor voice resonates with power and purpose to not only present the ancient groit traditions of Senegal in a fresh light but also carry strident political and social messages across Africa to the wider world.
A prodigy in his youth, having performed from the age of 12, Youssou now defines the essence of West African groove through his engaging take on mbalax – a complex blend of traditional griot percussion and praise-singing with the Afro-Cuban rhythmic flavour that became absorbed into Senegal’s music from the 1940s.
Youssou embraced this mix within his band Super Etoile de Dakar, together with the searing influences of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix that fired the imagination of his generation, but also with traditional dancers and the chattering talking drum presenting an unmistakable African flavour.
Youssou is revered among western musicians, having collaborated with a galaxy of stars: Peter Gabriel, Sting, Neneh Cherry, Wyclef Jean, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, Branford Marsalis, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Dido. He also puts his fame to work by pulling focus on issues in Africa, from Amnesty International and UNICEF projects to the fight against malaria, and since 2007 he has been a member of the World Future Council.