Youssou N'dour & The Fathy Salama Orchestra : Egypt Live (Parts 1 & 2)
Type of Spiritual Experience
The Guardian - A song and a prayer Mark Hudson - Sunday 23 May 2004
As the first superstar of world music, Youssou N'Dour has consistently sought to reconcile Africa and the West, but his most personal record yet is a celebration of Islam in Senegal. …..
As the rush-hour traffic begins to build, N'Dour stands amid the tranquillity of the courtyard of Dakar's Grand Mosque - only half a mile from the Marche Sandaga - a picture of serene composure in his coat of many colours. ….. the patchwork gown is of the sort worn by itinerant Senegalese mystics as a sign of poverty and humility….
The mystic's gown and the choice of mosque as photo location aren't mere exotic props. N'Dour's next release, Egypt , is an album of Islamic praise songs, and he has refused to play in the US since the start of the Iraq war. While he has always worn his religion very lightly, the last time we met in November 2002, just after the release of Nothing's in Vain , he was already talking about the current project, arranged 'by someone raised in my own religion, which is Islam' …...
When we finally meet N'Dour at his studio out near the Pointe des Almadies, the westernmost point of the African continent, he's in a relaxed and expansive mood. 'This album began as a purely personal project,' he says. 'Six years ago during Ramadan, I was listening to the radio. There was deep Islamic music in Arabic for older people to listen to, and there was rap for the young people. But there wasn't anything in between, that answered the way I was feeling. And when I started to think about what I could do I remembered that I used to hear a lot of Egyptian radio when I was young, and my father was a great fan of Oum Kalsoum.'
A muezzin's daughter from the Egyptian provinces, Kalsoum is supposedly the most played artist of the 20th century. Her austere, majestically yearning voice, steeped in the cadences of the Muslim liturgy, was both the defining sound of the heroic age of Arab nationalism and an excellent example of how the sacred pervades every aspect of artistic expression in Islamic society.
'To me, her voice is magic - the quality of space in the arrangements I wanted to see if I could achieve that with my voice, and bring together north and west African traditions.'
Working with Egyptian composer and arranger Fathy Salama, N'Dour visited Cairo and, after much coming and going, Egypt was written and recorded - a fascinating album that pits N'Dour's invocatory griot singing against elements of Sufi chanting, the magnificent sweeping microtonality of Arab classical music against Western harmonics and the benefits of multitracking. Certainly it is completely unlike anything N'Dour has done before - a world away even from 2002's semi-traditional Nothing's in Vain .............
While Egypt represents a reassertion of faith in N'Dour's own life ('I'm 44. I have six kids. I have to think about important things.'), it is far from pan-Islamic in its application, being sung entirely in Senegal's lingua franca, Wolof, and in praise of the founders and leaders of Senegal's Sufi brotherhoods.
A description of the experience
Youssou N'Dour performs music from Egypt, his 2004 project dedicated to the Islamic Sufi saints of West Africa. Recorded October 2004 at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.
Youssou N'Dour performs music from Egypt, his 2004 project dedicated to the Islamic Sufi saints of West Africa.
Recorded October 2004 at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.
00:00 Shukran Bamba
05:04 Oum Kalsum
12:30 Bamba The Poet
Performers: Youssou N'Dour (vocals) and his West African ensemble with the Fathy Salama Orchestra from Egypt