Youssou N'Dour - Nothings In Vain

Known primarily for his duet with Neneh Cherry on the gorgeous "Seven Seconds", Youssou N'Dour is a supremely poetically versatile solo performer in his own right. Two years ago he released his Nonesuch US debut Joko (The Link). The music publications have heaped much deserved praise on the Sengaleese singer with the inimitable tenor voice. Mojo proclaimed "The greatest artist in Africa has just made the album of his life", while Time Out described his latest release as "the best thing he's ever done". Youssou spent eighteen months in his own recording studio creating the music for "Nothings In Vain" in the Sengaleese capital of Dakar. The lyrics are printed in the inlay booklet of the CD in his own language and are translated into English and as such you'll probably have to search for this album in the world music section.

"Tan Bi" (Heat, Breeze, Tenderness) has unusual instruments such like the 21 stringed West African harp Kora and a stringed Sangalese lute known as the Xalam C5. It's a jaunty, jolly track wich musically and spiritually recalls the rhythyms and sounds which Paul Simons dipped into for his "Gracelands" album. Youssou's social conscience is voiced clearly on "Genne" (For Those Displaced) with it's politically charged lyrics like "Let's lessen the conflict and bring back compassion". A special mention must go to Issa Dioula whose playing on the Sengaleese wooden flute is oustanding.

"Sagal Ko" is very moving, exquisiltly played by exceptionally magnificent musicians. The beautifully realised backing vocals by Viviane Chihid N'Dour with percussion courtesy of Babacar "Mybaye Dieya" Faye El Hajid Omar Fare and Jaco Largent are superb. "Africa, Dream Again" is partly sung in English and the emotion sens shivers down your spine. It has the potential to be Youssou's biggest breakthrough since the Neneh Cherry collaboration. An aquired taste, maybe but "Nothing In Vain" is an unusual, diverse fully textured album performed with passion, emotion, spirit and heart and soul.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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