A Magical Musical Tour

June 27th, 2011

Youssou N’Dour – Terminal 5 – June 24, 2011

Youssou N’Dour and his band, the Super Etoile, structured their show on Friday night at Terminal 5 like a musical journey. Inspired by the two cities that form the title of his new record, Dakar-Kingston, N’Dour first pointed his compass at the reggae sounds of Jamaica and then for the second half of the show returned to his Senegalese to perform Mbalax—the genre of music N’Dour helped to popularize in his home of Dakar—while also fusing the traditional African rhythms with more eclectic influences, like Afro-Cuban, pop, soul and Caribbean sounds.

A huge musical superstar in Africa who also enjoys tremendous success internationally, N’Dour was certainly given the star treatment from those in the New York City crowd, many of whom didn’t miss a beat when he held out the microphone for them to sing along, be it in Wolof, the language of many of N’Dour’s songs, or in English, as in the chorus of crowd-favorite “7 Seconds.” The show was full of energy and spectacle thanks to the talented musicians, backing singers and some impressive dancers whose all-out acrobatics, with flips and twirls that seemed to defy gravity, recalled the slickness of James Brown.

But the merits of the exciting stage show aside, the real feat displayed on Friday night was the power and impact of N’Dour’s voice: a strong and clear tenor, echoing through the venue, at times playing off the syncopated rhythms of the jaunty music, fast and furious (as in the upbeat “Set”), and at other times almost operatic, akin to religious chanting. As the music spanned the globe, N’Dour was always the sight to behold, taking effortless command of the stage whenever he opened his mouth to sing. —Alena Kastin