Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Youssou N'Dour: Rokku Mi Rokka

Youssou N'Dour's Rokku Mi Rokka
Often when we see or hear reports about Africa, the news is of famine, disease or war.

Youssou N'Dour wants the world to know that the mother continent is full of joy, and the place where the world's most vibrant sounds have their roots.

That's the message of the Senegalese singer's new album, Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take), released recently on Nonesuch Records. N'Dour and his African big band, the Super Etoile of Dakar, on tour to promote the album, perform tonight at Gusman Center, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami.

In N'Dour, concertgoers will encounter a masterful singer of the contemporary pop music known in the Wolof language as mbalax. But N'Dour, who got his start singing a blend of Afro-Cuban and African genres, fuses his art with international influences, including Cuban music, reggae and the blues.

"In Africa, we get excited when we hear these rhythms, because we feel them, they are ours, but they left Africa with the slaves a long time ago," N'Dour said through publicists. "Rokku Mi Rokka means, 'You give me something, I give you something' and that's the message of the album: We have received a lot from the developed world, but remember that we brought a lot, too."

The album's 11 tracks celebrate Senegal's culture. Bajjan (The Father's Sister) is an ode to women who maintain family traditions; Sportif is about wrestling, a popular sport in Senegal; while 4-4-44 commemorates Senegal's independence on April 4, 2004.

Besides the Super Etoile ensemble, the album features collaborations with impressive artists. Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate, a member of Ali Farka Toure's band, plays ngoini, a four-stringed precursor to the banjo on Sama Gammu (My Rival). Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis of Orchestra Baobab add vocals on XEL (Think).
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