MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - Senegalese superstar Youssou N‘Dour wants to explore reggae more with new songs on his next album after paying homage to Jamaican singer Bob Marley on his most recent release, Dakar-Kingston.
The venture is a departure in musical form for N‘Dour, who drove the development of mbalax, a frenetic popular music powered by complex Senegalese drum rhythms, with his band Super Etoile de Dakar.
“I grew up with reggae music,” N‘Dour, dressed in an orange batik shirt and matching shoes, told Reuters after the sound check for his appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, one of Europe’s most prestigious summer events. “I‘m sure I‘m still going to do reggae music for the next album.”
N‘Dour interpreted existing songs like ‘Medina’ and ‘Africa Dream Again’ in a reggae style on Dakar-Kingston, released earlier this year, with arrangements and production by Tyrone Downie, a member of Marley’s band, the Wailers.
“It’s going to be new songs this time,” the 50-year-old N‘Dour said on the wide terrace of a posh Montreux hotel, the water of Lake Geneva sparkling in the sunshine over his shoulder. “I think I‘m going to work with Tyrone Downie.”
N‘Dour and Super Etoile played a two-hour set of reggae and racing mbalax numbers that had the audience dancing from beginning to end in Montreux’s main hall on Friday night.
The concert included a reggae version of “Seven Seconds,” a top 10 hit across Europe for U.N. goodwill ambassador N‘Dour and Neneh Cherry in 1994.
N‘Dour now wants to forge a stronger bond between the mainly Jamaican recording band used on the Dakar-Kingston and Super Etoile to explore the relationship between reggae and African music more deeply.
“My thinking now is what is the real connection between the two bands, between Super Etoile and reggae music. It’s going to be maybe more African,” said the calm and respectful N‘Dour, leaning forward slightly in his wicker chair to emphasize his words, hands clasped in front of him.
“A long time ago when the slaves left Africa, music left also, this is why when we listen to Cuban music or reggae music, we feel that this music is part of us.”
Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Jon Hemming