Youssou N'Dour film explores music and Islam

Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:40pm EDT
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pop singer Youssou N'Dour's 2004 album of Islamic music earned him a boycott by some Muslim fans, but in a new documentary about the album, "Egypt," he says the music has encouraged a deeper appreciation for Islam.

"Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love," a documentary by Chai Vasarhelyi that opened in New York on Friday, contrasts the enthusiastic response the Grammy-winning album "Egypt" got during a tour in Europe and Asia with its cold reception in his native Senegal, where it was the subject of a boycott.

"I was frustrated. The music wasn't speaking to people," N'Dour told Reuters about the reaction in his home country.

"When there's a break with tradition, or something changes, people can't accept it right away. It takes a little more time," the 49-year-old singer said, speaking in French through a translator.

"I felt that the album could be a positive contribution," he said. "My music ... it says that Islam is tolerance and peace."

The film explores the controversy over the album, following N'Dour on tour and after he won a Grammy for "Egypt" in 2005.

In Europe, N'Dour's performances of songs like "Allah," performed in the Wolof language with a classical Egyptian orchestra, were met mostly with dancing and standing ovations, and only a few complications.

At a concert in Ireland, N'Dour, who describes himself as a devout Muslim, discovered that audience members were drinking beer. He delayed his performance for a half hour with a plea that it be alcohol-free.   Continued...