|Youssou N’Dour speaks at today's press conference.|
I had the honor this afternoon of speaking with ‘the authentic and unforgettable voice of modern Africa’, the musician Youssou N’Dour. Mr. N’Dour is in Japan having been invited by the Arion-Edo Foundation to perform at the Tokyo Summer Festival 2006 this weekend. He appeared at today’s press conference, just off the plane, in his role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassor, flanked by the director of UNICEF in Japan, Mr. Yoshiteru Uramoto.
The 47-year-old Youssou N’Dour comes from Senegal, on the north-west coast of the African continent. The child of a singer, he has taken his talent for song and songwriting to the West, blending elements from around the world into his African-born sound, making fans worldwide. He has been particularly prominent in the West since touring with Peter Gabriel (ex-Genesis) in 1986. His most recent success is the 2005 album 'Egypt', for which he received the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
His role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador reflects his involvement in politically and socially significant movements since he co-headed Amnesty International’s ‘Human Rights Now’ tour in 1988. He has focused particularly on the plight of children, raising their awareness of HIV, and, at present, doing what he can to fight malaria, a killer of approximately 3000 African children per day and a severe handicap to the economies of Africa.
|Youssou N’Dour displays a UNICEF insecticide-treated mosquito net for fighting malaria in Africa.|
Several times during questioning he reasserted his role as a musician, belying the inevitable tension between his concern for social issues and his clear desire to keep out of African politics. He does not eschew taking political stances, however, as evidenced by his cancellation of his planned 2003 tour of the U.S. in protest against the Iraq war.
However, whatever the degree of tension between roles, in terms of demeanor, tension is not part of his vocabulary. The conference was memorable for his eloquent, unhesitating answers delivered with warmth and charm to questions about his music, his aim in coming to Japan, his role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, African politics, and more.
Besides his immediate aims for the relief of some of Africa’s afflictions is his aim to bring to the world the values of Africa, a continent that, as one of whose most effective ambassadors, he shows in his own words and actions is as much about love, peace and tolerance as anything considered by the rest of the world more ‘newsworthy’.
When asked what other aims he had in Japan besides to perform, he indicated a desire to check out what other Africans in Japan were doing and take a walk around the entertainment district of Roppongi. Stay tuned for the next report – from his concert.
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