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Tuesday June 07, 2011

Youssou N’Dour and his reggae thing

After countless forays into the western world, Youssou N’Dour chose Dakar as a base from which to lead his geopolitical campaign in music.
His strategy is pan-African: “What all of us Africans share is much more important than what we don’t share,” says this elegant, fifty-year old youngster, who grew up in the Medina in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar. Bringing unity to the African continent has been his priority for a long time; the key (along with love, opinions and a great festive sense) lay in the professional practise of music for some thirty-seven years. Yet his career was bound to lead to a form of musical expression that has become universal: Reggae, which was born in Jamaica in the Sixties.

As a man of the media and a fighter for citizens’ rights – from wiping out the African debt to the battle against malaria – Youssou N’Dour is well aware of the political import of reggae, the music-genre directly linked to Rastafarianism, whose leading figure was the “Ras Tafari” Haile Selassie, the black Emperor of Ethiopia.

As a religion, intellectual movement and way of life, Rastafarianism was conceived some thirty years before the first sound-systems by two Jamaican renegades living in The United States, Marcus Garvey, the ideologist of beauty and black rebellion, and preacher Leonard Percival Howell, who left Jamaica on a ship to America but returned from Harlem to work the soil in the hills of the Caribbean.