Youssou N'Dour- Vocals, Percussion; Backing band unknown; Branford Marsalis - guest, track 6
1988 marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In an effort to raise world consciousness about human rights and of the plight of political prisoners worldwide, Youssou N'Dour joined Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Tracy Chapman to embark on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour. The tour was an ambitious undertaking that criss-crossed the globe during September and October of 1988, where these artists performed before monumental crowds in Europe, Asia, Africa, as well as North and South America.
In this eight-song set, captured for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, legendary Senegalese singer/percussionist Youssou N'Dour puts forth an energetic, passionate performance on the final night of the tour at el Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, the home of Argentine football giants River Plate on October 15th, 1988.
N'Dour opens the show with an upbeat number that features exhilarant horns, eclectic percussion, and syncopated stabs of electric piano. Youssou also shows off his powerful, acrobatic vocals, as he comfortably leads a massive crowd clearly bubbling over with excitement. While many of the songs are upbeat affairs, he does throw in a few mid-tempo, slightly moodier numbers that also work well, due to N'Dour's seemingly endless range and his backing band's staggering versatility. "Nelson Mandela" epitomizes this versatility, as he glides over mellow, almost reggae-ish, behind-the-beat drumming and monstrous horns.
Describing N'Dour's music isn't easy, as it is extremely eclectic. It is a mixture of West African rhythms, horns fit for Fania Records, intricate percussion, and mild rock influences. Once N'Dour stirs it all up and adds an Island-style loose vibe, it makes for an unexpectedly delicious sound that is meant to be heard live.
Youssou N'Dour was born in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on October 1st, 1959. He got his start in music early, playing percussion and singing with the Star Band, a popular local group, in his teens. After spending the late 70s with the Star Band, he formed the Etoile de Dakar (which would become Super Etolie de Dakar), a group that saw him come into his own as a composer and bandleader.
The band became the core figures of Mbalax music, a style combining traditional West African rhythms and vocals with Latin and Caribbean music. As the sound grew, he threw in more westernized rock 'n' roll influence, as well as touches of jazz, soul, and blues to further revolutionize his work.
He has released over twenty albums in his long, illustrious career, garnering him a substantial worldwide fanbase and the distinction of being one of the most popular singers in the whole of Africa. No matter how popular he has become, he continues to maintain a strong dedication to social justice, especially in his home continent. After organizing a concert for the release of Nelson Mandela, he was a key figure in the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour, as he traveled the world spreading his positive music and message.
He continues to make music and collaborate with new artists to this day. He has worked with diverse artists like Nas, Bruce Springsteen, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Paul Simon, and Wyclef Jean. He is currently working for advanced, open source health care in Africa.