Published May 23, 2019Dipped in reverence and humility, the latest from Youssou N'Dour goes in on honouring musical pasts and redoing his own previous hits to celebrate what lies ahead.
N'Dour's career runs decades deep, and History explores the Senegalese musician's storied past and the Mbalax musical standard he's set for other pan-African artists to follow. "Habib Faye" is the opening track and honours the musical legacy of his late friend and bassist of the same name. Covers of "My Child" and "Takuta" also serve to celebrate the life of late Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji.
In covering his own 2000 track, "Birima," the classic guitar-picking intro is subdued, but the addition of Swedish-Gambian soul singer Seinabo Sey picks up the slack, adding a new energy to his popular song.
History admittedly feels a bit forced in spots, working too hard to set the mood, instead of letting things happen organically. Case in point: the remix of rising Swedish-Congolese singer Mohombi's "Hello" could use space to unfold and breathe a bit more than it gets, but it's an okay track in the end.
By going back in time to revive his late '80s/early '90s hits "Salimata" and "Ay Coono La" — recorded around the time N'Dour was at his international peak of recognition, primarily due to his collaboration with Peter Gabriel — N'Dour decides to polish them up a bit, reflecting on how far he's come in his musical journey.
Indeed, N'Dour is rightly known for his contributions to the pop-oriented and diasporic sound of modern West African music. History looks back and marks a career that is admired and respected. (Independent)