Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love

Directed By: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi


It’s hard to say definitively, but certainly one of my earliest introductions to non-English “World Music” was the collaboration between Peter Gabriel and Senagalese sensation Youssou N’Dour. And what an introduction – his soaring tenor seems to cut through any arrangement with bell-like clarity, a distinctive instrument that can truly be said to be one of the planet’s true musical treasures.

With this documentary, we trace the creation of N’Dour’s acclaimed Egypt album. Fusing a Cairo-based Arabic orchestra with West African musical heritage, the album is a celebration of pan-African love for shared religious convictions.

Films about the tension between secular and religious music are hardly new, dating back at least to The Jazz Singer as a topic for cinematic exploration. However, with this contemporary look at two topics shrouded in misunderstanding, namely the cultures of Islam and West Africa, we share in N’Dour’s troubles and triumphs as this controversial album is received to both acclaim and (initially) reticence.

This is a serious, heady film about important topics, but it’s also at its heart a celebration, a joyous compilation of live performances. The passion with which the musicians play this “faith” music is extraordinary, and the sheer conviction demonstrated by N’Dour to provide a positive international voice for his faith in the shadow of contemporary struggles within the Muslim community is inspirational. Attractively shot, intimate and unflinching, this is a wonderful document of a musical legend as he tackles what proves to be his most personal work.

Grade: A


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