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February is African American Heritage Month and WERS AT NIGHT is honoring one artist or one song every day this month that helped contribute to social consciousness, political responsibility, or civil rights. At WERS, we believe that these songs are always bigger than just entertainment; music can be used to drive a movement or even motivate a nation.
Youssou N’Dour has gone from a sixth grade drop to becoming an icon. Hailing from Senegal, N’dour is known for his ability to mix traditional Senegalese mbalax with modern influences. Mbalax is a genre of music that involves fast moving drums as well as a Kora. Mbalax is also a style of dance that stems from the genre. Youssou N’Dour took this and infused it with sounds borrowed from rock, pop music, hip-hop, jazz, soul and Cuban rumba. He has worked with artist such as Sting, Branford Marsalis, Tracy Chapman, Wyclef Jean and Bruce Springsteen. His international presence is strong and his talent undeniable. The New York Times described his voice as an, “ arresting tenor, a supple weapon deployed with prophetic authority.” He has given the world a taste of the amazing Senegal music scene.
Youssou N’Dour has done more then this for Senegal. He owns a newspaper called L’Observatuer (the observer) as well as a radio station called RFM and a TV station called TFM. Previous to this the Senegalese government held almost a monopoly on media outlets. Most of the other outlets could not compete financially. Through his wealth he is able to rival the state funded media, and provide an alternative voice. When Abdoulaye Wade ran for a third term Gossoon N’Dour was one of his opponents. This brought world attention to the fact that Abdoulaye Wade was attempting to run for what many considered to be an illegal third term. While he did not win, he was appointed Minister of tourism and culture.