Global Hit - Youssou N'Dour

This song is called "Wake Up It's Africa Calling." It's from Youssou N'dour's latest CD. "Wake Up" reunites Youssou N'dour with Neneh Cherry, the singer with whom Youssou N'dour scored his 1994 hit "Seven Seconds." Songs like this one you're hearing, have prompted some critics to say that Youssou N'dour is pandering to western ears. And in full disclosure, that's partly why I'm playing it.

The album that "Wake Up" comes from is called "Rokku Mi Rokka." It's just come out, but only for the international market. That does NOT include Africa. If you were to go to Dakar, the Senegalese capital where Youssou N'dour comes from, Rokku Mi Rokka is virtually impossible to find.

You could find another Youssou N'dour CD that came out about the same time though. And some critics believe Youssou N'dour saved the really good release for his countrymen. THIS track comes off "Alsaama Day," the CD Youssou N'dour released in Africa.

If you are somewhat familiar with Youssou N'dour's classic sound, "Alsaama Day" seems like a return to his roots. So will the real Youssou N'dour please stand up? Rose Skelton is a journalist who lives in Dakar and covers the music scene there.

�He has his European or North American audience. A lot of his income will come from that market outside of Africa. At the same time he has this very very loyal crowd within Senegal, but also within Africa who have really stuck by him in his 25 years that he's been making music.�

For two different audiences, two styles. Youssou N'dour sings in Wolof, the main language of Senegal, on both CDs. But similarities end there. On the new international release, the Senegalese rhythms are so stripped down, they start to resemble basic folk-rock. By contrast, listen to the complex patterns of the sabar percussion on the Senegalese release, "Alsaama Day."

�The Senegalese release is very much a soundtrack to a day in Dakar. You know, the Wolof language is a very stacatto language, and the Wolof drum the sabar is a very stacatto drum. So the music sounds kind of like what it's like to walk down the street in Senegal. Whereas the European release and the American release is very...is very distant. It sounds like something that was much more carefully in a way constructed.�

It's not the first time Youssou N'dour has been criticized for making music that is easy on western ears. This case is striking though. N'dour has simultaneously created two different sets of songs for two different sets of ears.Rose Skelton says she has one theory as to why Youssou N'dour has been going off in several stylistic directions.

�He has more aides than the president, more people advising him on what sort of is the best.�

Since Americans were first introduced to Youssou N'dour's music in the early 90s, his sound has evolved and gotten slicker. It would be interesting to see how newcomers to his music would react to his more earthy Senegalese sound. After all, that's what made Youssou N'Dour attractive to western audiences in the first place.