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Youssou N’Dour: Youssou N’Dour: Live at Montreux

Vocalist Youssou N’Dour was already a superstar in his native Senegal by the end of the 1970s. However, it took nearly a decade more for European and North American audiences to become aware of his incredible voice as well as the soaring melodies, peppery rhythms and vivacious, keen intellect that suffuses his music-making.

This performance, recorded at his 1989 debut at the Montreux Festival (plus five bonus tunes from his 1995 Montreux appearance) captures N’Dour just as he was breaking through to non-African audiences. It’s not a perfect portrait; it’s only by the sixth song, “Kocc Barma,” that the singer seems to find his groove with the audience. There are only passing glimpses of the vibrant joy that characterize his Senegalese nightclub-style pop shows, and the singer hasn’t yet matured into the ecstatic grace that permeates his most recent project, the Grammy-winning Egypt (Nonesuch).

But even the lavishly applied ’80s synthesizers and less-than-fabulous sonics can’t hide the penetrating beauty of N’Dour’s singing, and his band, Le Super Etoile de Dakar, prove why they were (and are) one of the best bands in all Africa. Fans will definitely want this DVD as a snapshot of a young singer claiming his rightful place in the musical pantheon.

Originally Published