Youssou N’Dour – Dakar-Kingston


He may be the most famous singer ever to emerge from Africa but to many North Americans Youssou N’Dour (a.k.a. le super etoile de Dakar) remains a mysterious figure on the world music scene. Born in the old town of Medina Senegal’s “man of the millennium” is an enduring international pop-culture icon who blends funky modern grooves with the traditional beats and harmonies of West Africa’s griot storytellers. Awarded an honorary doctoral degree in music from Yale University earlier this year the 51-year-old golden-throat has continued his campaign to attract a new generation of fans including collaborators Peter Gabriel Sting Tracy Chapman Bob Geldof and Bruce Springsteen.

With over two dozen full-length albums to his credit Youssou switches things up a bit for Dakar-Kingston and as you might suspect this involves turning his attention to his friends on the island of Jamaica for inspiration. Hopping to the block with the opening tribute “Marley” which give thanks for Bob and pledges African unity Youssou offers his mbalax and sabar (two Senegalese musical forms) sub-Saharan interpretation of the rock-steady rhythms and soulful ska breakdowns on cuts such as “Medina” “Joker” and the lover’s rock treat “Black Woman” featuring Tyrone Downy a former member of The Wailers. Reggae royalty Bongo Herman (the Itals) sax player Dean Fraser and another Wailer Earl “Chinna” Smith all weigh in to lend some authentic vibes to this distinctly African recording. Running along the lines of other noted African reggae greats such as the late Zulu-Rasta Lucky Dube or Cote d’Ivoire’s Alpha Blondy Dakar-Kingston represents the unifying nature of music as it vividly echoes the spirit of Black liberation across the globe in three dialects; English French and N’Dour’s native tongue Wolof.