Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Postcolonial Music

Youssou NDour (1959) is one of a handful number of nonwestern pop stars from the African continent born around or after the independence of their homeland. NDour sings many of the typical stories of those who are trying to be subjects of modernity and not its objects: stories about the dangers of being overrun by tourism, the degradation of the environment, moving from the country to the city, and nostalgia for the ancestors and their wisdom. This modernization, however, in the form of the colonial machine, left NDour and his fellow Senegalese few options. The stories of modernization and colonialism intersect in his music.

NDour expresses the desire to make a new popular music that incorporates elements of indigenous traditional music while using the local language. At the same time, NDour acknowledges the influence of music from around the world on him. Its just a natural process of evolution. My style evolves depending on what other music Ive heard.

NDour is a Muslim but his music and lyrics have not taken on specifically Islamic issues. But his music is still informed by a strong sense of right and wrong. The idea of propriety recurs throughout his songs, which exhorts youths to behave respectfully towards their parents, cautions the west to behave respectfully towards its former colonies, and asks tourists to treat his country well.

In Xale (Our Young People), he tries to project a vision for the youth of the African continent:

Xale (Our Young People)

Young people of our country

This is how I see it

Lets start by asking Cod

To accept our prayers

To bless all our endeavors

To shield us from the Devil

Who conspires to make us doubt

Who tries to change our ideas

And to divide us

We must come together and show everyone

What we can do

That we can be the backbone

Of our country

We will benefit by talking things over

With our parents

But we must contribute our own ideas

Those of us who are in Senegal

And those of us who are abroad

Can all make an effort?

Where am I with my guys?

Well I think we are doing our bit

We all need to work together

For the future of our country.

Hey, Im certainly not forgetting you

NDour says about Xale that its a question of reflecting and showing a different image; to be credible; able to work hand in hand to achieve the development of our continent, our country. Its a song to stimulate consciousness and a call for the union of our youth for a new vision. The music is the most serious he has written in its use of a nearly classical sound: his band, Super Etoile de Dakar sits out, so it is all guest strings, giving Xale the sound of a string quartet. It is sober music, both in content and in form.

- Timothy Taylor

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