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Youssou Ndour, singer and mystical Muslim

Life & Society

"This is one way of putting it all. Sometimes I get so carried away by a piece that I find myself a spectator of my own music, and I think it is an example of totally fulfilled spirituality. "

Updated on October 14, 2020, The World of Religions
Youssou Ndour, singer and mystical Muslim

Youssou N'dour, the famous Senegalese singer, paid tribute last to Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Al-Tijânî, the great Sufi master of the 18th century, during an exceptional concert in front of the symbolic gate of the Fassis of Bab al Makina in Fez, in Morocco.

First known for his duet with Neneh Cherry, 7 Seconds, an international pop hit of the 90s, Youssou N’dour has always refused to be locked into one stream.

Album after album, the Senegalese singer has ceaselessly sought new collaborations, new sounds, in a quest to renew and deepen his music.

This is still the case for that concert at the Fez festival, dedicated to the memory of Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Al-Tijânî, grand master of the Tijâniyya Sufi brotherhood founded around 1780. Ahmed al-Tijânî, born in Aïn Madhi in Algeria in 1735 moved to Fez at the age of 21 to study religious sciences at Qarawiyyin Mosque-University. He very quickly joined one of the currents of Sufi mysticism, and founded his own brotherhood (tariqa), the Tijâniyya, which spread very quickly to the Maghreb and then to sub-Saharan Africa before spreading to Indonesia via the Syria, but also in Europe and North America. It will be introduced to Senegal by the Marabout (Religious Guide) Omar Tall.

For Youssou N’dour, this tribute is important, especially since the brotherhood is indeed very present in West Africa, and particularly in Senegal: "It is a honor and a great emotion. The mixture of religion and culture motivates people. While it is misunderstood in the West, Islam must present itself and show that it is a religion of peace, tolerance and love, as Shaykh al-Tijânî so aptly illustrates ". The concert was therefore placed under the sign of meeting and sharing.

Singers from the Sufi choir "Ahl Fès" are invited to share the stage with Youssou N’dour for a few songs. Mixture of Senegalese rhythm and Arabic sounds, with the purity of calls to God. And then a griot from Senegal joins the songs, and tirelessly invokes the prophet Muhammad and his descendants. Music and spirituality, once again intimately intertwined. With happiness.

"It doesn't matter what style of music - modern, traditional - explains Youssou N’dour. What matters is what is carried by the music, by the words, by the melody. If you put spirituality into a song, it immediately shows, regardless of the musical genre. This is one way of putting it all. Sometimes I get so carried away by a piece that I find myself a spectator of my own music, and I think it is an example of totally fulfilled spirituality. "

This state, which can be compared to a kind of trance, is characteristic of the Sufi path. This is one of the methods used to come closer to God, and Youssou N’dour, as a mystical Muslim, is no exception. Of course, the whole concert is not made up of ecstatic chants, and simpler, more classical melodies follow the chants dedicated to the love of God, without either being diminished. The concert undoubtedly reflects quite well the challenge of the Fez festival, which mixes genres and horizons, but always strives to preserve a space where the artistic and the quest for transcendence come together and merge. Youssou N’dour's concert is the perfect example. A successful example.


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