Youssou N’Dour Documentary, “I Bring What I Love,” at 2009 Wisconsin Film Festival

This is the only film that I really want to see, which will be shown on the last night of the festival. It’s not just that I can’t afford it; I have to work up a real interest to see a certain flick, and unlike this generation, I’m not always into shorts. Of course, this isn’t San Francisco; this is the Midwest. There are a few films involving Wisconsin summer camps and milk (yes…). There is also another documentary, Food, Inc., made by the same people that did Fast Food Nation, about how our food is grown and manufactured and then distributed to supermarkets that I would like to see. But I digress.

I first heard Youssou N’Dour on Peter Gabriel’s Eighties hit album, So. I’d liked Gabriel since his first couple of albums released after leaving Genesis, and “Sledgehammer” had made me laugh in the shower while listening to the radio getting ready for work. It was so obviously a soul ripoff and yet enjoyable at the same time with the new video and audio technology. Especially that killer line, pleading if you show for me/I will show for you.

But what really made me go out and buy the album was “In Your Eyes,” with that voice pealing (appealing?) at the conclusion. Youssou’s voice touched my heart; it was almost like hearing the muezzin’s call to prayer, but it was more than that. It is what is known as mbalax. So I went from the erotic to the sublime in one second like flipping a certain Tarot card. World Beat was only a few years old, but I didn’t know many of the African singers and groups. With this man, it was like hearing all I needed.

Youssou NDour at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2008 (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Youssou N'Dour at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2008 (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

The story behind the film, I Bring What I Love, is that N’Dour, a Muslim, made Egypt, an intensely personal and spiritual album, largely as a reaction to how Islam was being depicted, particularly in the West, in 2004. Because of this, he had declined to perform in the United States after it invaded Iraq a year earlier. N’Dour praises how Islam is practiced in Senegal in relative toleration and understanding, particularly through the holy men and scholars (marabouts) of his own Muslim brotherhood, the Mouridiya (each song is entitled about and dedicated to these men).

Surprisingly, though, Senegalese elders opposed him making, marketing and profiting from this album. It was the equivalent of Ray Charles getting flack from The Black Church for using traditional religious idioms in what is supposed to be ‘sinful’ music and just for money, a schism that still hasn’t healed though current gospel music now draws heavily from soul and rock sources. While the album was enthusiastically received outside Senegal, it opened a deep religious and cultural divide in N’Dour’s native land that continues unabated.

The film is also interspersed with the usual concert scenes, moments with N’Dour’s family and friends, and interviews with Fathy Salama, Neneh Cherry and Peter Gabriel among others. It was co-produced by a Wisconsin native, Sarah Price. See it when it comes to your town.

~ by blksista on April 1, 2009.

One Response to “Youssou N’Dour Documentary, “I Bring What I Love,” at 2009 Wisconsin Film Festival”

  1. Although I am huge Peter Gabriel fan, I first (knowingly) heard Youssou N’Dour on the radio with “7 Seconds”. I remember being first blown away by how his voice just seemed liquid, and then fascinated by hearing the other language. (I was a teenager – there wasn’t much like that on the radio and MTV!) I saw him live for the first time last year in London and was still blown away.

    It doesn’t look like the film is scheduled to be released in the UK, but it sounds really intriguing!

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