Dr.Youssou Ndour Doctor of Music
By Alagi Yorro Jallow, in attendance
Yale University gave honorary degrees yesterday to Senegalese musician Youssou Ndour, Joan Didion,a writer,George Mitchell,a peace-maker,Martin Scorsese, a film director, Janet Davison Rowley a physician, Sir Richard Peto ,a epidemiologist, John Heilbronn a scholar and historian, Douglas Engelbart inventor of computer mouse,Gro Harlem Brundtland,a scientist and Chris Argyris one of the world’s leading thinkers about organizational behavior at Ivy league University’s 310 th Commencement exercise.Yale President Richard Levin called Youssou Ndour” as a singer, songwriter, and composer, your music melds African rhythms with traditions ranging from Cuban samba to hip-hop, jazz, and soul. You have created Africa's leading ensemble, performed with great artists around the world, sung about tolerance, and acted with conviction, all the while remaining true to your own faith and culture. Understanding the power of music to liberate, heal and united, you have organized and performed in concerts that call attention to injustice, poverty, and disease. With your extraordinary sound, you give voice to hope and our common humanity. We salute you now as Doctor of Music”
Youssou Ndour is one of today’s most celebrated African musicans, widely considered to be Senegal’s preeminent cultural figure. He is a singer, songwriter, and composer, and his works and style have influenced musicians around the world. His music blends traditional rhythms of Africa with a wide range of music including Cuban samba, hip-hop, jazz and soul.The New York Times has referred to him as “West Africa’s cultural ambassador to the world.”
Mr. Ndour was born in Dakar,Senegal,in western Africa.He began singing at neighborhood gatherings as a child and,by his mid-teens, was performing regularly with the most successful group in Senegal at the time, the Star Band.He began to gain a following for his performances of the Senegalese dance music called mbalax.Mbaalx is a complex fusion of popular Western music and dance such as jazz,soul,Latin,and rock, blended with sabar,the traditional drumming and dance music of Senegal. In 1979 he formed his own group, the Etoile de Dakar,which evolved into the breakaway band Super Etoile.This group performs its own unique creation and has developed a modern African style that has had far-reaching influence.
Introduced to American audiences by Peter Gabriel on his So album and Paul Simon on Graceland,Mr Ndour and his band subsequently began a series of collaborations with Gabriel,Simon and other Western musicians.He released his first international album,The Lion,in 1989,and followed it with Set,in 1990.These two albums and a world tour with Gabriel established his place in the world of music and garnered notice from Rolling Stone and other music critics.
In 1991 he signed with Spike Lee’s record label and produced Eyes Open the following year, which won a Grammy nomination, further enhancing his reputation. The lyrics addressed a range of themes from media,military,unwanted childbirth, and the difficulties of African identity,all against the backdrop of what had become Mr.Ndour’s musical signature of traditional African elements blended with Caribbean,jazz,and pop music motifs.
In 2004 he released Egypt,an album of Islamic music that both celebrated Islam and advocated tolerance of the religion. Although he recorded the album prior to 9/11, he delayed its release to avoid an association between the music and the attacks.Nonetheless, the album sparked controversy when it was released, and both from those who felt it was unsuitable representation of Islamic music and from those who felt it inappropriate to promote Islam through pop culture. In the face of criticism and boycott.Mr Ndour remained steadfast in his conviction that the music communicated a message of tolerance and peace.The album gained widespread acclaim in the international arena and won a Grammy award in 2005. Asubsequent documemtary about the album,Youssou Ndour:I Bring What I Love, followed him through two years of performances and conversations around the world.
Mr. Ndour has used his music to benefit causes about which he cares deeply. In 1985 he organized a concert for the release of Nelson Mandela. He has staged benefit events for malaria relief and has performed for Amnesty International concerts and in three Live 8 concerts. He serves as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.
Ref:Yale University 310th Commencement 2011
Alagi Yorro Jallow in attendance