4 Youssou N’Dour songs you’re missing out on right now
Have you heard of Youssou N’Dour before? I certainly hadn’t before looking at the season calendar for UMS.
A few facts: Youssou N’Dour is a Senegalese musician who has collaborated with greats such as Sting, Tracy Chapman, and Bruce Springsteen. One of his most notable accomplishments was collaborating with Axelle Red on the official anthem for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. N’Dour formed his own ensemble, the Super Étoile de Dakar, in the 1980s. Playing the Latin-infused dance music that was popular throughout Africa at the time, the group brought their unique sound to Europe and North America on concert tours, and in 2005, he won his first American Grammy Award for best contemporary world music album.
If you’re someone who loves exploring different kinds of music or music that you’ve never heard before, then, like me, you’ll get hooked on this man’s music. Never mind the fact that a lot of his lyrics are in French and Wolof, a language of Senegal, the melodies and infectious beat will sneak their way into your head and stay there for days.
1. La Cours des Grands
This song is for the soccer fans and French lovers – “La Cours Des Grands” is the official anthem for the 1998 FIFA World Cup and was sung by Youssou N’Dour in collaboration with Axelle Red, a Belgian singer/songwriter. I enjoy this song because it has a very inclusive view and aims to target the worldwide audience of the World Cup. This generally cheerful song is a good mood-lifter, and I’ve added it to my morning playlist to get me ready for the day.
2. 7 seconds
Arguably his most well-known song, “7 seconds” reached No. 1 in France and stayed there for 16 consecutive weeks. It also reached the top spots in several other European countries. The song highlights the diversity of the world and the racism that many continue to face today. The title refers to the first 7 seconds of people’s lives, when they are not aware of differences in skin color, ethnicity, or race. The lyrics include these lines:
“and when a child is born
into this world
it has no concept
of the tone the skin it’s livin’ in”
I, as an Asian-American, don’t feel the impact of racism often, but I do experience it once in a while, and this song really speaks to those instances of my experience. Racism is something people learn in their lifetimes, not a natural trait, and “7 seconds” highlights this fact.
3. Immigres/Bitim Rew
On a less serious note, this song was released on one of Youssou N’Dour’s first albums, Immigres, which contained only 4 songs and helped to land him on the international map. I have to admit, the only word I understand in this song is “Senegal,” but I love the beat and listen to it when I cook because the beat is perfect for stirring, and also because the song manages to put a smile on my face without fail.
This song is by far my favorite. I heard the song at the right moment a few week ago. As I was at my desk, researching Youssou N’Dour’s music, I got sidetracked by thinking about my future. As a junior, and I’m sure other students can relate to this, I have moments of panic while thinking of my upcoming summer and what in the world I’m doing with my life. I had this plan of blowing recruiters away and acing all of my classes, but in reality, I’m sometimes struggling to meet these expectations. I’m struggling to decide what I want to do and how to do it. I’m struggling because I feel like I’m lost and everyone else seems to know exactly where they belong.
This song came on right in the middle of my mini freak out session. It was so different from the other upbeat Youssou N’Dour songs that it caught my attention, and after listening to the calming tune, enjoying its jazzy feel and, of course, seeing the title “Undecided,” I was hooked. I can’t say that this song gave me an epiphany about my life but it did calm me down during my panic, and now when I listen to it, I feel the sense of calmness washing over me. I close my eyes, sit back, and simply enjoy.
Youssou N’Dour and Super Étoile de Dakar perform at Hill Auditorium on November 14, 2015.