Charlestonians are virtually “7 seconds away” from seeing legendary singer Youssou NDOUR at Spoleto Festival USA on Sunday night.
One of Africa’s most well-known musicians, recognized for hit songs “7 Seconds” with Neneh Cherry and “In Your Eyes” with Peter Gabriel, will open the Wells Fargo Jazz Series at Spoleto May 29 on the College of Charleston Cistern Yard.
NDOUR is an fascinating program alternative, as audiences don’t know him for jazz. He’s recognized for largely African, Wolof and Senegalese songs, in addition to the Mbalax style – the nationwide common dance music in Senegal.
Spoleto Festival USA’s Wells Fargo Jazz advisor and Wall Street Journal jazz critic Larry Blumenfeld, who will average a chat with NDOUR earlier than the efficiency, defined that whereas the pageant likes to honor the legacy of jazz music, it additionally contains music that will have a connection to jazz.
“The jazz series at this festival is always broad-minded and creative,” stated Blumenfeld. “We like to think more broadly, and wear the word jazz as a loose garment, to embrace all the music, especially the great Black music that connects to what we mean by jazz.”
NDOUR as this system opener additionally helps an enormous through-line and theme for this yr. The opera Omar will inform the story of Sufi, a Senegalese man who was kidnapped and transported to Charleston as a slave. The efficiency by NDOUR, additionally from Senegal and a Sufi Muslim, displays a acutely aware choice made by Blumenfeld and the pageant.
“[Omar is] an important opera, somewhat groundbreaking, and tells that story, which is part of Charleston’s legacy and part of Charleston’s history,” Blumenfeld stated. “It is very interesting extension that we have one of the world’s great voices and great artist, who is a Sufi Muslim man from Senegal, performing and sharing another facet of that identity and reality. So that’s an interesting connection. That’s why he’s here, because it is timely.”
Blumenfeld added the jazz collection will proceed the thread began by Omar and can have fun African historical past and its vital music.
“It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful,” NDOUR stated. “I think that the programming sometimes determines the success of the festival and originality.”
Joining NDOUR on the Wells Fargo Jazz Series might be Nduduzo Makhati (additionally African), Ravi Coltrane, Tyshawn Sorey, Linda May Han Oh & Fabian Almazan, and Cecile McLorin Salvant.
Reflecting on an extended music profession
NDOUR received’t be on the town for the complete collection, although, as he’s been within the U.S. since earlier this month, acting at Carnegie Hall in New York City on May 13. Right after he performs at Spoleto, he’ll carry out yet another present within the U.S. – in North Bethesda, Maryland — after which head to Europe for a quick tour that features London and Paris.
“At the beginning, it was not in my goals to have a career internationally,” he stated in an interview. “But I found that people in the West had a fascination with African, occidental and world music. And with that understanding, I thought that, yes, it could be possible for me to make it internationally. I just need to be well directed and have people to collaborate with.”
When it involves worldwide collaborators, NDOUR famously sang with Peter Gabriel in 1987 and he additionally labored with Sting, Axelle Red, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed.
NDOUR stated it was not straightforward to make it within the U.S., nevertheless.
“It took time. We are passionate about what we do and you can’t anticipate when exactly it will happen,” he stated. “But there came a comfort with all the tours, albums and all the advertising we were doing in the United States.”
In the early 2000s, he received a Grammy award, which turned his world the other way up — in a great way.
“Every time I released an album, the album was nominated at the Grammy level,” he stated. “I had been nominated for four years and didn’t win. So the fifth time, when I won, it’s like I won a cup for me and for the people.”
Other accomplishments embody beginning the band Super Étoile, and a political profession from April 2012 to September 2013 as Senegal’s minister of tourism.
NDOUR began acting at age 12 and he’s now 62. In his 50-year profession, what nonetheless excites him most is the chance to be on stage.
“You know, I vibrate the most when I’m on stage, anywhere I am,” he stated. “This is the time when I feel the most free, so I will be. I will live. I will thrive on the sound, in this awesome atmosphere.”
- Youssou NDOUR: Mbalax Unplugged performs 9 p.m. May 29 at College of Charleston Cistern Yard. Tickets begin at $40.50. To order tickets or for extra data, go to spoletousa.org/occasions/youssou-ndour.
Gabriel Veiga is a graduate scholar within the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications Program at Syracuse University.
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