Youssou N'Dour

Youssou N'Dour

N'Dour in Warsaw on 13 September 2009
Minister of Tourism and Culture of Senegal
Assumed office
5 April 2012
Prime Minister Abdoul Mbaye
Preceded by Thierno Lo
Personal details
Born (1959-10-01) 1 October 1959
Dakar, Senegal
Religion Islam
Youssou N'Dour
Birth name Youssou Madjiguène N'Dour
Also known as Youssou Ndour
Born (1959-10-01) 1 October 1959
Origin Dakar, Senegal
Genres Mbalax
Occupation(s) Singer, percussionist
Years active 1970s–present
Labels Chaos Recordings
Real World Records
Nonesuch Records

Youssou N'Dour (French pronunciation: [jusu nˈduʁ]; born 1 October 1959) is a Senegalese singer, songwriter, composer, occasional actor, businessman and a politician. In 2004, Rolling Stone described him as, "perhaps the most famous singer alive" in Senegal and much of Africa.[1] From April 2012 to October 2012, he was Senegal's Minister of Tourism and Culture, and from October 2012 to September 2013, he was Senegal's Minister of Tourism and Leisure.

N'Dour helped to develop a style of popular Senegalese music known in the Serer language as mbalax, which derives from the conservative Serer music tradition of "Njuup".[2] He is the subject of the award-winning films Return to Goree directed by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud and Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, which were released around the world.

In 2006, N'Dour was cast as Olaudah Equiano in the film Amazing Grace.


N'Dour was born in Dakar to a Wolof mother and a Serer father. At age 12, he began to perform and within a few years was performing regularly with the Star Band, Dakar's most popular group during the early 1970s. Several members of the Star Band joined Orchestra Baobab about that time.

Despite N'Dour's maternal connection to the traditional griot caste, he was not raised in that tradition, which he learned instead from his siblings. His parents' world view encouraged a modern outlook, leaving him open to two cultures and thereby inspiring N'Dour's identity as a modern griot.


In 1979, he formed his own ensemble, the Étoile de Dakar. His early work with the group, in the Latin style, was popular all over Africa during that time. In the 1980s, he developed a unique sound with his ultimate group, Super Étoile de Dakar featuring Jimi Mbaye on guitar, bassist Habib Faye, and tama (talking drum) player Assane Thiam.

By 1991 he had opened his own recording studio, and, by 1995, his own record label, Jololi.

N'Dour is one of the most celebrated African musicians in history. His mix of traditional Senegalese mbalax with eclectic influences ranging from Cuban rumba to hip hop, jazz and soul won him an international fan base of millions. In the West, N'Dour collaborated with Peter Gabriel,[3] Axelle Red,[4] Sting,[5] Alan Stivell,[6] Bran Van 3000,[7] Neneh Cherry,[8] Wyclef Jean,[5] Paul Simon,[8] Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, James Newton Howard, Branford Marsalis, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Dido, Lou Reed, Bruce Cockburn and others.

The New York Times described his voice as an "arresting tenor, a supple weapon deployed with prophetic authority".[9] N'Dour's work absorbed the entire Senegalese musical spectrum, often filtered through the lens of genre-defying rock or pop music from outside Senegalese culture.

In July 1993, Africa Opera composed by N'Dour premiered at the Opéra Garnier for the French Festival Paris quartier d'été.[10]

In 1994 N'dour released his biggest international hit single, the trilingual 7 seconds, a duet sung with Neneh Cherry.

He wrote and performed the official anthem of the 1998 FIFA World Cup with Axelle Red "La Cour des Grands".[4]

Folk Roots magazine described him as the African Artist of the Century. He toured internationally for thirty years. He won his first American Grammy Award (best contemporary world music album) for his CD Egypt in 2005.

He is the proprietor of L'Observateur, one of the widest-circulation newspapers in Senegal, the radio station RFM (Radio Future Medias) and the TV channel TFM.

In 2006, N'Dour played the role of the African-British abolitionist Olaudah Equiano in the movie Amazing Grace, which chronicled the efforts of William Wilberforce to end slavery in the British Empire.[11]

In 2008, N'Dour offered one of his compositions, Bébé, for the French singer Cynthia Brown.

In 2011, N'Dour was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in Music from Yale University.[12]

In 2013, N'Dour won a share of Sweden's $150,000 Polar music prize for promoting understanding between faiths as well as for his music.[13]


N'Dour was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on 16 October 2000.[14]

In Senegal, N'Dour became a powerful cultural icon, actively involved in social issues. In 1985, he organized a concert for the release of Nelson Mandela. He was a featured performer in the 1988 worldwide Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour collaborating with Lou Reed on a version of the Peter Gabriel song Biko which was produced by Richard James Burgess and featured on the Amnesty International benefit album The Secret Policeman's Third Ball. He worked with the United Nations and UNICEF, and he started Project Joko to open internet cafés in Africa and to connect Senegalese communities around the world. He performed in three of the Live 8 concerts (in Live 8 concert, London, Live 8 concert, Paris and at the Live 8 concert, Eden Project in Cornwall) on 2 July 2005, with Dido.[15] He covered John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" for the 2007 CD Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. He appeared in a joint Spain-Senegal ad campaign to inform the African public about the dramatic consequences of illegal immigration. N'Dour participated in the Stock Exchange of Visions project in 2007.[16]

In 2008, he joined the Fondation Chirac's honour committee.[17] The same year, Youssou N'Dour's microfinance organization named Birima (Birima is also a song's title) was launched with the collaboration of Benetton United Colors.

In 2009, he released his song "Wake Up (It's Africa Calling)" under a Creative Commons license to help IntraHealth International in their IntraHealth Open campaign to bring open source health applications to Africa. The song was remixed by a variety of artists including Nas, Peter Buck of R.E.M..., and Duncan Sheik to help raise money for the campaign.[18]


At the beginning of 2012, he entered the race for the presidency of Senegal for the 2012 presidential election, competing against Abdoulaye Wade.[19][20] However, he was disqualified from running in the election over the legitimacy of the signatures he had collected to endorse his campaign.[21]

In April 2012 it was announced that N'dour was appointed tourism and culture minister in the cabinet of new Prime Minister Abdoul Mbaye.[22]


N'Dour at the 2010 Festival de Cornouaille at Quimper, France.


Compilation albums


Single Year Peak chart positions Album

Alt Rock

"The Rubberband Man / Nelson Mandela" 1985 Nelson Mandela
"Shango Affair" 1988 Black Mic Mac 2 OST
"Shakin' the Tree" (with Peter Gabriel) 1989 61 9 The Lion
"The Lion / Gaïende"
"Toxiques" 1990 Set
"Africa Remembers" 1992 Eyes Open
"7 Seconds" (with Neneh Cherry) 1994 3 3 1 1 3 98 The Guide (Wommat)
"Mame Bamba"
"Undecided" 1995 53 145 92
"Chimes of Freedom"
"How Come" (with Canibus) 1998 52 Bulworth OST
"La Cour Des Grands (A Ton Tour De Jouer)" (with Axelle Red) 16 31 official hymn of 1998 FIFA World Cup
"My Hope Is in You" 1999 Joko - From Village to Town
"Birima" 2000
"So Many Men" (with Pascal Obispo) 2002 35 27 85 Nothing's in Vain (Coono Du Réér)
"#Senegaal rekk" (with Le Super Etoile) 2016 189
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Amazing Grace (2006)

Retour à Gorée (2007)

  • As himself, journeying from the island of Gorée to the USA and back, exploring the origins of jazz, which go back to the era of slave trade in Africa, through a concert performed by an international group of artists.[32][33]

Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love (2008)

  • As himself, through the recording of Egypt album and its repercussions.
  • Released in the US on DVD by Oscilloscope Laboratories.


  1. Considine, J. D., and Matos, Michaelangelo, "Biography: Youssou N'Dour", 2004.
  2. Sy, Abdourahmane (28 February 2010). "Rémi Jegaan Dioh : Sur un air culturel et cultuel". Ferloo. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  3. Llewellyn Smith, Caspar (15 June 2008). "Soundtrack of my life: Youssou N'Dour". London: Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  4. 1 2 Perrone, Pierre (29 May 1998). "Music: The song remains the game". London: Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  5. 1 2 Hudson, Mark (12 December 2002). "Supernatural superstar". London: Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  6. "Scotland News – Listings: Critics' choice". 11 January 2004.
  7. Gill, Andy (14 June 2001). "Album: Bran van 3000". London:
  8. 1 2 Cumming, Tim (21 October 2004). "Youssou N'Dour and the Fathi Salama Orchestra, Barbican, London".
  9. Powers, Ann (23 November 2000). "WORLD MUSIC REVIEW; African Drumbeats That Shout Out in Celebration".
  11. Moss, Stephen (21 March 2007). "I'm bringing a message". London:
  12. Burt, David; de La Bruyère, Max (23 May 2011). "University confers 2,907 degrees at 310th Commencement". The Daily Yale News. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  13. Scrutton, Alistair (7 May 2013). "Youssou N'Dour's work for harmony lands Swedish music prize". Reuters.
  14. "Youssou N'Dour". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  15. "Dido, Youssou and the three-gig dash". London: 3 July 2005.
  16. "Youssou n'Dour the Africa's Music Maestro". 13 June 2009. Archived from the original on 20 November 2010.
  17. Honour Committee of the Fondation Chirac
  18. "Open Initiative". IntraHealth. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  19. "Message Nouvel an : Youssou Ndour confirme sa candidature à la Présidentielle 2012" (in French). Seneweb. 2 January 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  20. Diene, Charles Gaïky. "Course à la présidentielle : Youssou Ndour sur la ligne de départ". WalFadjri (in French). Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  21. "Senegal clashes erupt as court clears Wade poll bid". BBC News. 28 January 2012.
  22. "Senegal musician Youssou Ndour given ministerial post". BBC News.
  23. CHRISTGAU, ROBERT; FRICKE, DAVID; HOARD, CHRISTIAN; SHEFFIELD, ROB, "The Top 50 Albums of 2007", 17 December 2007
  24. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 388. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  25. Australian chart peaks:
  26. "Youssou N'Dour - French Chart". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  27. "Youssou N'Dour - Walloon Chart". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  28. "Youssou N'Dour - Swiss Chart". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  29. "Youssou N'Dour - German Chart". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  30. "Youssou N'Dour – US Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  31. "Youssou N'Dour - US Alternative Songs". Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  32. Regnier, Isabelle (1 April 2008). ""Retour à Gorée" : la force de la musique des esclaves noirs au détriment de la vérité historique". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  33. A review of Youssou N'Dour: Return to Goree in the San Francisco Chronicle, 19 September 2008
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