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Youssou N'Dour: Egypt

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: Nonesuch Records
Released: 2004.06.08
Category: World Music
Producer(s): Youssou N'Dour, Fathy Salama
Rating: ********.. (8/10)
Media type: CD
Web address: www.youssou.com
Appears with:
Purchase date: 2008.11.05
Price in €: 8,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Allah (Y.N'Dour) - 6:12
[2] Shukran Bamba (Y.N'Dour) - 5:32
[3] Mahdiyu Laye (Y.N'Dour) - 4:59
[4] Tijaniyya (Y.N'Dour) - 5:47
[5] Baay Niasse (Y.N'Dour) - 5:20
[6] Bamba the Poet (Y.N'Dour) - 3:53
[7] Cheikh Ibra Fall (Y.N'Dour) - 3:38
[8] Touba - Daru Salaam (Y.N'Dour) - 5:49

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Youssou N'Dour - Vocals, Producer, English Translations

Fathy Salama - Arranger, Conductor, Producer
Ramadan Mansoor - Tabla
Yuri Kablotsky - Violin
Babou Laye - Kora
Mostafa Abd El Azeez - Arghoul
Ahmed El Gazar - Sagat
Mamdouh el Gebaly - Oud
Nidhat Adb El Sameeh - Violin
Bisheer Ewees - Bass Violin
Hasaneen Hindy - Mizmar
Ayman Sedky - Doholla
Shibi - Doholla
Mbaye Dieye Faye - Percussion
Yaser Mal Allah - Percussion
Beugue Fallou Ensemble - Percussion, Background Vocals
Kabou Gueye - Background Vocals
Souka Guèye - Background Vocals

Alaa el Kashief - Engineer
Ndiaga Ndour - Engineer
Segui Niang - Engineer
Khalid Raaouf - Engineer
Philippe Brun - Mixing
Robert C. Ludwig - Mastering
Frank Olinsky - Design
Veronique Rolland - Photography
Mamdou Dia - Author
Cheikh Amala Diallo - English Translations, Transcription
Abdouf Aziz Mbaye - English Translations, Transcription
Fiona McLaughlin - English Translations, Transcription
Thomas Rome - English Translations
Cheikh Thiam - English Translations, Transcription

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

2004 CD Nonesuch 79694

While Youssou N’Dour’s international releases have always combined Senegalese musical traditions with outside sources of inspiration, Egypt takes a fresh approach; on this album, the rhythms and melodies of Senegal drive arrangements featuring Egyptian and Arabian orchestral sounds. Featuring traditional musicians in Dakar and in Cairo, EgyptEgypt is N’Dour’s lyrical celebration of Senegal’s Muslim mystical culture of Sufism. EgyptEgypt’s lyrics demonstrate a distinctly Senegalese way of Islam, and of Sufi thought and practice, with references to venerated caliphs, saints, and sages.

International pop star Youssou N'Dour explores of the themes and sounds of Senegal's Sufi culture on this striking 2004release. Markedly different than the artist's other albums,on which African elements combine with Caribbean influence and various American styles (including soul, jazz, and rock), EGYPT moves away from N'Dour's trademark pop and deep intothe territory of traditional religious music. Though characterised by an undercurrent of West African rhythms and inflections, the sound here - as the title indicates - draws on North African and Middle Eastern Arab music, and features such regional instruments as the oud, the arghul (a double-reed bamboo flute), tablas, and various Arab Gulf percussion. There is a distinct classical aura here (the personnel list includes an arranger, a conductor, and a score manager). The Fathy Salama Orchestra, which backs N'Dour throughout, features - in addition to Egyptian flutes and drums - first and bass violins, and the group's complex, elegant interplay gives these recordings a stately, stirring feel. N'Dour's voice, in contrast to its usual role as a high, soaring lead, blendssubtly into the musical fabric here. A recording notable for its focus, passion, and beauty, EGYPT is possibly N'Dour'sriskiest and most artistically rewarding album.

African music heads have done a bit of grumbling over the years about Youssou N'Dour. They take issue with the great singer's choice to record high-energy mbalax music, which mixes African and Cuban rhythms, for his Senegal homeland fans while recording (lesser to some) modern global pop for his European and American releases. N'Dour continues to do the crossover thing on Egypt, but rather than draw upon Western pop song constructs, he dives into Arabian and Egyptian orchestra music complete with strings, flutes, and percussion. In the past, the singer's voice often had a keening quality that allowed him to soar over his working band, the great Super Etoile, but here N'Dour smoothes over the rough edges to render some of his most delicate and subtle singing to date. Providing strong support, the orchestra sounds lush and dynamic throughout. The only real complaint here is the relatively short 41-minute running time of the album, but there's still plenty music for purists and popsters.

Tad Hendrickson - Amazon.com

Released five years after it was recorded, and quite possibly delayed as a result of the war on terror, Egypt is Youssou N'Dour's long overdue homage to Senegal's mystical (and moderate) Sufi take on Islam. It's his first internationally released album in two decades without a word of English and a breath of fresh air as such. Cairo's Fathy Salama Orchestra add the textures and tonalities of the Arab world to Youssou N'Dour's small group of Senegalese musicians and singers with often thrilling results. It's not an immediate album by any means, and some may miss the major chords and frenetic mbalax rhythms of his other work, which only surface in restrained form on "Cheikh Ibra Fall". In their place are loping North African grooves, trilling flutes, the buzzing drones of various Egyptian reed instruments and big sweeping string arrangements all skilfully combined with the tinkle of kora and the woody tones of the balafon. Youssou N'Dour's distinctive tenor is unusually subdued in most places and often complemented by fine call-and-response chorus vocals. The consistency of tone and mood - generally one of reverent but restrained ecstasy - might initially seem monochromatic, but Egypt handsomely repays repeated listens.

Jon Lusk - Amazon.co.uk

Youssou N'Dour's Egypt is a radical change of pace for the Senegalese singer/songwriter. Throughout his career, N'Dour has adapted his indigenous musical heritage to the pop sounds of world music. On Egypt, N'Dour and his quartet have created rhythmic and melodic arrangements for material from the Arabic world. Joining N'Dour's quartet for this recording is the renowned Fathy Salama Orchestra, a 14-piece traditional music ensemble. The material is traditional Sufi music, and N'Dour has applied, via the score's director, Hassan Khaleel, Senegalese rhythms and folk melodies to exist in concert with the time-honored originals. The effect is nothing less than startling. N'Dour goes deep into the heart of Senegalese Sufism, tracing the lines where terrains, spiritual practices, and of course musical ideas meet, meld, and change. Unlike his previous recordings, the organic and sacred character of this music seems to stand outside of time and space; it wails and warbles, croons and groans. It is the music of joy and reverence and, as it bridges the various aspects of Islamic cultural traditions, one hopes it can create, via the sheer beauty of its sound and the translation of its lyrics, a portrait of a world that is far different from the one portrayed by Western media constructs.

Thom Jurek - All Music Guide

Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour was so incensed with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that he canceled his American tour. The experience was a galvanizing one for the singer, however, and his empathy for his Islamic brethren spilled over into a work that's no less beautiful for being profoundly political. N'Dour aimed to stress the beauty and openness of his faith and does so by setting the devotional prayers of Senegal's Muslims to classical Egyptian film music. It's a surprising move all around, but one that bears unexpected fruit. Musically, Egypt is glorious: Where, in the past, N'Dour's crossover sensibilities have often led him to inflated global pop, this bridge leads to lushly recorded strings and Oriental rhythms, lit up by a voice regarded as one of the world's finest. Fans of Arab music from the likes of Umm Kulthoum will certainly be intrigued by N'Dour's take, delivered in Wolof and other Senegalese languages. Egypt is also rewarding for the light it sheds on African Islam. Few are familiar with the parade of saints, caliphs, and martyrs that are praised on these songs. Cheikh Amadou Bamba is one figure familiar to fans of the Orchestra Baobab and Cheikh Lo, who have praised him in hit songs. Cheikh Ibra Fall, a follower of Bamba, is another subject; he was the founder of the Mouride sect (Lo is one), the dreadlocked Africans whose patchwork clothing is a sign of their mystical beliefs. The sharp focus and impeccable performances of Egypt make it a standout in N'Dour's catalog, although longtime fans will likely be mystified by this atypical offering. Be warned that the driving mbalax rhythms of N'Dour's Afropop are nowhere on this album, instead, Egypt is a humble showcase for a gifted vocalist's devotion.

Mark Schwartz - Barnes & Noble

 L y r i c s

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