Youssou N'Dour gives world music a good name. For almost thirty years, the Senegalese musician has been blending traditional sounds and instruments with influences as far-ranging as American jazz, Afro-Cuban dance rhythms and Western pop music, arriving at something infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. Known in his native tongue as Mbalax, N'Dour does what few other purveyors of the oft-maligned world-music pseudo-genre have managed to do: Through incredibly intelligent songcraft and superb musicianship, he creates music that doesn't need the trimmings and trappings of Western acceptance to create a market and foster enthusiasm. Weaving unfamiliar African rhythms around pop structures and then painting them with the vibrant colors of both traditional African acoustic instrumentation and guitars and keyboards, his arresting tenor — regarded as one of the best voices in the world today — floats weightlessly on top, making for a combination that's excitingly different and entirely organic all at once.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.