- Nationality: Senegalese
- Date of birth: October 1, 1959
Internationally renowned artist, visionary businessman, activist, UN ambassador, minister and advisor to the President, Youssou N’dour is a talented artist and an incredible personality in African music.
Afrcoulture.net presents 21 things you need to know about the king of Mbalax.
1/ Heir to the griot caste, Youssou N’dour, 64, was born on October 1, 1959 in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. He is a Senegalese singer, songwriter, internationally acclaimed musician and politician.
2/ One of Africa’s greatest vocalists, he is nicknamed the King of Mbalax, because he was the first to introduce Senegalese traditional dance music, mbalax, to the international scene.
3/ As a child, he began to express his love of music at family parties.
4/ His father didn’t want him to become a musician. His wish was for his son to study to become a doctor or a teacher, as neither he nor his wife had had the chance to study. But he decided to leave school without going to high school. And decided to flee to Gambia for a concert and make a living from his passion.
He declares in an interview:
“I fled to Gambia because of my passion for music”
“As my father couldn’t go to school, he wanted me to study and choose a profession like doctor or teacher, but I had a great love for music. When I was 13, my friends and I went to Gambia without telling anyone, because we’d heard that the music scene there was different. Of course, my father went to the police in Dakar and, somehow, they found me in Gambia. My uncle was the director of the art school at the time, and when he saw my determination for music, he suggested I go to art school. My father immediately accepted, because the word “school” was on it. His only dream was for me to go to school somehow. That’s how I started playing music at the age of 13.”
5/ At the age of 19, he began his career with the group Étoile de Dakar.
6/ In 1985, he gave a concert in support of Nelson Mandela’s release.
7/ He has always chosen the opportunities life has given him. He created his first album, “Immigrés”, when he came to France in 1984. To sing for the Association of Senegalese Taxi Drivers in Paris.
“I just seized the opportunities when they presented themselves. The first time I came to France, in 1984, I was invited by the Association of Senegalese Taxi Drivers in Paris. With my orchestra, we gave a concert at the town hall in the 14th arrondissement. I remember it well! The next day, with the money we’d earned, we rented a recording studio, and that’s where I recorded my first album, Immigrés.”
8/ In 1993, it was success. Youssou N’Dour became world-famous thanks to the song “7 Seconds”, which he performed with Neneh Cherry. Their duet won seven gold discs and dominated the charts in many countries. Thanks to this song, he became one of the world’s leading exponents of “World Music”.
“I was really proud of myself when 7 Seconds reached number 1 in the world music charts. 7 Seconds became a bridge that allowed me to introduce my country’s music to the world and opened completely different doors in my career,” he shared.
9/ Over the course of his 50-year career, he has released over 30 albums. He has been nominated for five Grammy Music Awards. He has made numerous collaborations with international artists such as Neneh Cherry, Peter Gabriel, Sting and Wyclef Jean.
|1996||Voices from the Heart of Africa|
|1998||Spécial fin d’année Plus|
|2000||Joko: The Link|
|2000||Le Grand Bal|
|2001||Le Grand Bal à Bercy|
|2002||Nothing’s In Vain|
|2002||Youssou N’Dour and His Friends|
|2007||Rokku Mi Rokka|
|2009||Spécial fin d’année|
|2010||Dakar – Kingston|
|2011||Mbalakh Dafay Wakh|
10/ Most of his songs are sung in Wolof. His music often addresses and praises women.
11/ He won a Grammy for “Best World Music Album” in 1993 for his album “Egypt”, which he recorded with the Egyptian orchestra Fathy Salam. Many traditional and accoustic instruments were used to create this magnificent album.
For Youssou N’dour, the term “world music” is not pejorative.
He points out in an interview:
“No. It was the media at the time who claimed that world music came from underdeveloped, poor countries, categorizing artists according to their geographical origin. I don’t agree, this genre is really about everyone.”
11/ With a desire to change things, he became involved in politics. In 2012, he tried to run for president. He subsequently became Minister of Culture and Tourism in Macky Sall’s government. Today, he is a presidential minister-counsellor.
12/ In the early 2000s, N’Dour launched “Projet Joko”. This is an African initiative to provide Internet access to the entire African continent. Very sensitive to vulnerable people, he set up the “Birima” project, a micro-credit system for low-income people.
13/ Visionary and ambitious businessman. He has set up numerous businesses and created over 500 jobs to redistribute to those in need.
- He founded a recording studio in Dakar
- He created a club in Dakar, called the Thiossane, located in the Grand-Dakar district.
- He created the Futur Médias press group, which includes the daily L’Observateur. His daily is the largest circulation in the country, with over 100,000 copies.
- He also created a radio station called Radio Futurs Médias (RFM) and a television channel called Télé Futurs Médias (TFM).
- He also owns a printing works.
- Since 2000, he has been organizing concerts at the Palais omnisports de Paris-Bercy, the Grand Bal, where he brings together the African community.
“Yes. Sharing is a very important value that we need to cultivate. When you’re successful, you earn money, so you invest. Today, I can boast of having created over 500 jobs through my various activities. I owe a lot to the Senegalese people, and I want to meet their needs.”
14/ He is also an artist committed to humanitarian and pan-African causes. As I said earlier, in 1985 he organized a concert for the release of Nelson Mandela at the Stade de l’Amitié in Dakar. In support of various humanitarian causes, he has organized several benefit concerts for organizations such as Amnesty International. He was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Then he was chosen as ambassador to the International Labour Office for UNICEF.
15/ In 2000, he set up his own Youssou N’Dour Foundation to promote sustainable development and children’s rights. His association also fights against malaria.
16/ Youssou N’dour is admired by Senegalese and African youth. He asks African youth to believe in themselves and in the future of Africa.
Talented musician, visionary businessman, activist, he’s on all fronts.
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