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Youssou N’Dour

One of the most famous singers from Africa, Youssou N’Dour has been a major force in the development of pop music in Senegal. Born in Dakar in 1959, he began performing when he was 12. His mother, an oral historian (a griot), taught him to sing and was an influence. As a teenager, N’Dour performed with Dakar’s most popular group, the Star Band. Within a few years, he became its leader and the group was renamed Super E’toile De Dakar. With this group, N’Dour was one of the pioneers of mbalax, which blended together traditional African chanting and praise music with Afro-Cuban rhythms, occasional instrumental solos, funk and pop music. Essentially, N’Dour took the roots of his African musical heritage and updated it, keeping its spirit while having it stay open to modern influences. In 1984 N’Dour and his group performed for the first time in Europe and in 1985 they made their North American debut. N’Dour’s very impressive vocals could not be overlooked and in 1986 he was featured on Paul Simon’s Graceland and Peter Gabriel’s So. He later toured as an opening act for Gabriel. In 1989 his album Set was an international hit. Since then, Youssou N’Dour’s fame has gradually grown. He wrote for an African opera in 1993, had a hit duet in 1994 with Neneh Cherry called “Seven Seconds,” collaborated on various projects with Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and Branford Marsalis, and most recently recorded Rokku Mi Rokka.