Since the world-music boom in the 1980s, Youssou N’Dour has been one of the most popular African performers. Crossing the traditional Senegalese music of his home country with the production values of European studios, he created a brilliant blend of sounds that wowed audiences around the world. However, his latest release, “Egypt,” turns away from the West toward the original source of his music, the Sufi Muslim religion.
Backed by the Fathy Salama Orchestra, a traditional African ensemble of non-Western instruments, N’Dour’s voice offers musical prayers, praise songs and Sufi dancing meditations. The songs have lightly dancing rhythms and circling melodies, but what is striking is the faith that comes pouring through. The depth of religious feeling is easy to hear, even without the helpful English translations.
The sincerity of these eight tracks should go a long way to dispel the images of Muslim spirituality so often distorted in the Western press. N’Dour’s music transcends the usual divisiveness of religions and cultures to present, instead, beauty. What one hears in “Egypt” is music of compassion and all-encompassing devotion.
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