Review: Youssou N’Dour’s Mastery of Multiple Styles and Languages

Aside from his sublime voice and onstage charisma, Senegal’s premier star has always been a musical innovator, fusing tradition and modernity. His early records mixed Cuban pop with Senegal’s mbalax heritage, while his rise to global superstar saw him weave together Africa and western pop – 1994’s hit Seven Seconds, with Neneh Cherry, remains an enduring cross-cultural gem. History, his first album in four years, has recast some old favourites, used material from the late Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji, and offered a tribute to another fallen comrade, Habib Faye, which opens the set with a supple inviting groove. Two old numbers are reworked with young stars aboard. N’Dour recasts Birima, a tribute to Africa, with Sweden’s Seinabo Sey, and Hello, with Congolese singer Mohombi, as arena-sized crowd pleasers – the latter is already a breakout global hit. A brace from 1989’s Set, an abiding favourite back home, evoke N’Dour’s mbalax roots, with Salimata blessed by slinky saxophone. N’Dour sings with accustomed majesty throughout; sometimes commanding, sometimes anguished, an always urgent force of nature.SOURCE:  THE GUARDIAN

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