…Here his strategy of moving a few favorite musicians north to Mali changes up the Senegalese mbalax he invented without surrendering its Sahel gestalt. Translations from the Wolof reveal lyrics about Senegalese independence, Sufi saints, the value of traveling, remembering, thinking. They’re worth following, as are the phonetic transliterations. But with N’Dour, the prime attraction is always musical, radiating out from a voice whose skylike clarity and beseeching high end would catch you short in a singer half his age, but always including striking multipart melodies and skilled guitar-bass-drums-drums-drums. Ali Farka Toure sideman Bassekou Kouyate banjo-fies five tracks on four-stringed ngoni. And if you’re good, Neneh Cherry will treat you to a duet on an English-language closer that’s worth the wait.
A new album from Youssou N’Dour is always an event and those who love African music look forward to such happenings with great joy.
The reviews seem to be mixed about the album. A savvy Amazon reviewer compares it slightly unfavorably to masterpieces like Immigres, Wommat, and Egypt. And it would be hard for any subsequent music to measure up to these massive achievements. Contrarily, Charlie Gillett, writing in the Guardian calls the record “adventurous and extraordinary, [the] album feels like a new pinnacle in Youssou’s career.”
Rolling Stone, unlike the parsimonious Amazon, lets you listen to the entire album if you install Rhapsody. Has anyone noticed that Amazon translates most of the song titles into English as if Americans would not be willing to buy an album whose song titles were in a foreign language? Preposterous.