I went to the Arion-Edo Foundation's Tokyo Summer Festival 2006 performance featuring the Senegalese world music artist Youssou N’Dour last night at Showa Women’s University in Tokyo’s Sangenjaya district. The whole hall was packed, and the audience unsurprisingly included a sizable African contingent.
N’Dour has been touring with his band ‘Le Super Etoile de Dakar’ for almost 30 years now, and the length they have worked together shows in the tight harmony of sound and feeling that comes through. Youssou N’Dour’s voice is the focus of the band’s sound but the teamwork is such that it is hard to imagine N’Dour performing without them.
N’Dour’s voice has a rich piquancy that is instantly moving, even if the lyrics aren’t in English. Delays on the Oedo subway line and a hitch with the taxi meant I arrived about 20 minutes late, and when I made it in there N’Dour was in full swing. Like I say, it was moving, to the point of drawing tears, if not a level of intimacy with the audience that was necessarily maintained at every stage of the performance. But, at his best N'Dour is all heart, and his voice sings it with maturity, breadth and warmth.
The band more than stood in for the times when N’Dour was remarshalling his energies, and, never losing the playful touch, completely dazzled the audience, especially with its percussive feats of rhythm. Towards the end a male dancer appeared on stage who, again, keeping the showbiz flame burning, indulged the audience with a display of arm, leg and whole body work that almost defied the senses. I had never seen anything like it for energy, agility, coordination and such control that he was able to work the illusion of being completely out of control.
The audience couldn’t get enough. N’Dour and the band had their finger directly on its pulse and had the whole hall responding instantly and resoundingly to requests to stand, sing along, wave arms, etc. The crowd spontaneously returned the energy of the performers in keeping the rhythm and dancing in the aisles. The calls for an encore – for at least two encores, in fact – were long, loud, persistent: ineluctable, and N’Dour and the band responded with what were probably their best performances of the evening.
Copies of Youssou N’Dours albums, including his most recent award-winning album ‘Egypt’ (2005) were on sale in the foyer, as well as DVDs and various goods from Africa. This concert was more than just about listening to music, it was communicating and celebrating Africa.
Buy original Mandala T-shirts, designed and made in Japan.
Japan Youssou N'Dour music festival UNICEF Africa
Sunday, August 06, 2006