Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Youssou N’Dour

Senegalese Singer, Percussionist, Songwriter, Composer, Actor, Businessman and Politician

"The meaning of life is to be found in our surroundings and in our relationships... Life is meaningful when we respect the best of tradition while still loving innovation... Life is fulfilling when we marry pride with tolerance, when our deeds and our words are nourished by hope and by realism, when the wisdom of the ages catches the passionate eye of youth. Life on this earth in our time is, above all, a parade of interdependent peoples, interdependent ideas, interdependent solutions. We are all artists of the possible - and dreamers of that which is just now beyond our reach, but may not be tomorrow."

"Africa is the future."

"I can assure you that I have never used my media companies for propaganda, and I will never do so."

"I don't want to see that two-tier Senegal, that two-tier Africa, when you have those at the top and those at the bottom, people who are hungry, people who do not have enough to eat."

"I grew up with reggae music."

"I have studied at the school of the world."

"I want to use my music to deliver a political message and sometimes to denounce, but I don't want to be a politician."

"If you come from Africa with your economic poverty and your cultural riches, and you meet someone like Peter Gabriel or a person from a big record company, and they tell you that what you are doing is marvelous, that makes you feel powerful."

"I'm a modern Muslim. I pray, and if I have a question, I ask someone who is more educated in the religion than me."

"I have to protect my family and have a life with them that is completely private."

"I look at my people, and I look at those who control them - the political elite. And the sad thing is that the elites are just not interested in the welfare of the people."

"I respect music, I do. I love it."

"I really want to bring the message of love that is Islam to people; bring something new to that familiar face."

"I think people should know more of Africa in terms of its joie de vivre, its feeling for life. In spite of the images that one knows about Africa - the economic poverty, the corruption - there's a joy to living and a happiness in community, living together, in community life, which may be missing here in America."

"I love meeting interesting people and doing things with them."

"I think that Sufism fits all over the world. The concept is not anything that fits standard Western ideas - it's always related to culture, to music, to religion. It is a dominant religion in Senegal."

"In Africa, there is much confusion.... Before, there was no radio, or other forms of communication.... Now, in Africa ... the government talks, people talk, the police talk, the people don't know anymore. They aren't free."

"In politics, sometimes you have to lie, or you make a promise that you cannot keep."

"In the West, you have always associated the Islamic faith 100 percent with Arab culture. This in itself is a fundamentalist attitude and it is mistaken."

"Music is a language."

"My father used to tell me about how musicians don't have respect from people and he was afraid about my future."

"Politics is politics; art is art. If you play a political role, you have to stop being an artist."

"Music in Africa often contains messages. Music in Senegal, and Africa, is never music for music's sake or solely for entertainment. It's always a vehicle for social connections, discussions and ideas."

"My music is like a spinning ball. It can turn in one direction, and then it comes back to origins."

"Senegal needs a renaissance."

"Senegal needs to free itself, to rediscover its democracy."

"When I'm in Senegal, I can't just sit in isolation making music. People need my help. And the Senegalese people helped create my music. It comes from the country itself."

"Western record companies haven't always dealt with African musicians in the best way. Giving them a lot of money and telling them they're going to be bigger than Phil Collins is the wrong way to do it!"

"The question of modernization is central to disturbances in the Middle East and in Africa. Everyone is after modernization, no matter where they come from. But you have to be careful about it, and more importantly, you have to have sense about it."

"When the slaves left Africa, they left us this music. They left us blues."

"Travel teaches as much as books."

"World music is about taking things from different places and bringing them together - which is great."