Youssou N’Dour: A Concert and the Biographical Film: I Bring What I Love, Opening June 12 in New York City
The great Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour opened BAM’s terrific weeklong festival Muslim Voices: Arts and Ideas with a concert on June 5. The next night, the series offered a special advance screening of the engrossing documentary “I Bring What I Love,” about his life, which was directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. It was followed by a blazing performance by N’Dour and his band The Super Etoile that had the entire audience on its feet dancing and clapping to the music.
Though nothing could equal the emotional power of hearing him sing – to me, his voice is one of the richest and multi-layered in the world – Vasarhelyi’s film movingly captures the charisma of this man who pleas for a more tolerant view of Islam through his music. Following him from concert to concert, country to country, and then home to his cherished grandmother and parents and children, it shows the tensions that arose when he recorded the original album “Egypt,” including in it verses in praise of Mohammed – forbidden by most Muslim sects.
Trying to show that music only enhances religion and belief, he went up against the most conservative members of the faith, undaunted by even the Senegalese rejection of the recording. By the time the film ended and he came out on the stage, I think most of us in the audience felt we now knew the man, and entered his music even more fully.