Saturday, May 1, 2010

Africa is in His Voice

Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I LoveAnd so is God.  Today I watched the documentary Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love.  If you think you have never heard of this Grammy-award winning Senegalese artist, think again.  He is possibly most well known in this country for his collaboration  on Peter Gabriel's song In Your Eyes, for his 1994 hit 7 Seconds with British songstress Neneh Cherry, and with Dido at Live 8.  The film chronicles N'Dour's early life and career.  It was really interesting to me to find out that he comes from a long line of griots on his mother's side of his family and that he trained with his grandmother in that tradition.  His music is a modern version of that ancient tradition.  Most Senegalese, including N'Dour, are Sufi Muslims and Sufism is considered a more mystical form of Islam.  The religion grew in that country in large part with the onset of French imperialism.  N'Dour decided to do a project in celebration of his faith  and in the late 1990s and early 2000s he took on creating his Grammy winning album Egypt.  The majority of the film focuses on his embarking on this projects and all its ups and downs.  For example, he delayed its release because of 9/11; while touring in Europe, many of the Egyptian musicians would not play in venues serving alcohol; and in his own native Senegal, people did not readily embrace the album because they thought it was sacrilegious for a pop singer to be singing about Islam.  That all changed, however, when the album won a Grammy in 2004.  In my opinion, this a great film to watch for anyone who believes Islam is simply about  Jihad.  Like any other religion, its about faith and love for God.  N'Dour's music is a celebration of that faith and his love for his country and people.  The documentary is available on Netflix.

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