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09 décembre 2007

Bringing to the table

The world can Rokku mi rokka with Youssou N'Dour

African superstar Youssou N'Dour's new album is called Rokku mi rokka - Wolof for "Give and take" - but that's not what Youssou had in mind when he told off Sir Bob Geldof before appearing at London's Live 8 concert back in 2005.

There was a distinct lack of African musicians at all the Live 8 concerts - so called since they were held in G8 nations to raise awareness of Third World debt - but Youssou was the only African to perform in London.

So, at the last minute, Peter Gabriel organized a simultaneous concert in Johannesburg hosted by N'Dour.

"The Live 8 concerts directly affected Africans, so we should also have been included," N'Dour told Hour this week. "I discussed it with Geldof and the [other] organizers so that this will not happen again."

African musicians are used to being treated as a mere afterthought by the West. Like Angélique Kidjo once told me about her chastising a journalist from the French daily newspaper Libération: "[That journalist's] fantasy of African women has taken a huge toll on my career. I do not want to be seen as a colonized person."

N'Dour agrees. "It is true that African audiences want to listen to modern instruments and the rest of the world wishes to listen to Africans play traditional instruments. It's a contradiction. But Westerners have a certain ideal of what they want Africans to be. So I have different versions of thesame songs."

In other words, there is an African version and one for the rest of the world. Which is why N'Dour's new album is called Rokku mi rokka. "We have received a lot from the developed world. But remember that we brought a lot too."

Youssou N'Dour and Le Super Etoile de Dakar
At the Théâtre Olympia (1004 Ste-Catherine E.), Dec. 11

Bugs Burnett

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