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Youssou N'Dour
World Musician Helps Bring Internet to His Native Senegal

Start streaming audio Listen to Ivan Watson's report about Youssou N'Dour.

Sept. 21, 2001 -- Long before he became internationally known by singing with Peter Gabriel on the mid-1980s hit In Your Eyes, Youssou N'Dour was a star in his native Senegal. But, while N'Dour has found fame in places like Europe and America, the West African nation continues to be the musician's top priority, NPR's Ivan Watson reports on Morning Edition.

Youssou N'Dour

Youssou N'Dour
Photo: Jonathan Mannion

N'Dour, 42, says he prefers to live in Senegal. He points out that with access to Dakar's international airport, travel for a globe-touring musician is easy. But N'Dour says the more he travels, "the more I like my country, and... if you don't have the barriers, you (are) always coming back to your roots."

For N'Dour, his musical and lyrical roots trace back to his mother's side of the family, among traditional singers known as griots, or story-tellers. Teen-agers in Dakar call N'Dour the king of mbalax -- a musical style that mixes traditional Senegalese rhythms with jazz, rock and Caribbean beats.

His lyrics are full of advice and lessons: In one song, Boul Ko tek Misser, N'Dour warns men to treat their wives and girlfriends kindly. He also talks about unemployment and the need to work hard.

N'Dour has worked hard investing in Senegal, where he owns a radio station, newspaper, a nightclub and a recording studio.

He also recently opened two community-owned Internet centers where visitors can surf the Web, send e-mails and take computer courses at a fraction of the amount charged in Dakar's cybercafes. It's part of his Joko (the word means "link" or "connection") organization, which hopes to build hundreds of Internet clubs around Senegal. Joko eventually aims to create Internet-based jobs and services, and link Senegalese expatriates with their families back home.

At the same time, N'Dour continues to bring his music to the world. His album, also named Joko, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Best World Music Album" category, and a U.S. tour is set to begin later this month.



Other Resources

Visit the Web site for Youssou N'Dour's Joko Club Internet project in Senegal.

Listen to songs from N'Dour's latest album, Ba'Tay. (Flash plug-in required)

Visit an Youssou N'Dour fan Web site, with discography, lyrics and concert photos.

Read an interview with N'Dour in a U.N. publication.

Read an interview with N'Dour in RootsWorld.