Youssou N’Dour (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. 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”. 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.
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, Axelle Red, Sting, Alan Stivell, Bran Van 3000, Neneh Cherry, Wyclef Jean, Paul Simon, 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”. 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.
He wrote and performed the official anthem of the 1998 FIFA World Cup with Axelle Red “La Cour des Grands”.
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.
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.
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.