DVD Review: Controversial pop star Youssou N’Dour profiled in new documentaryNot familiar with Youssou N’Dour, the African artist Rolling Stone called one of the most famous singers alive? Fret not, for Duluth film critic Robert Herling introduces us to the new-to-DVD “I Bring What I Love,” a documentary about the internationally acclaimed pro-Islam performer.
By: Robert Herling, Budgeteer News
“Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love”
Even though “I Bring What I Love,” the 2009 documentary about internationally acclaimed pop star Youssou N’Dour, is primarily focused on the fallout that resulted from his decision to record and perform the Islam-celebrating work “Egypt,” it remains a multifaceted project.
Western audiences familiar with the voice of Youssou from a number of popular tunes (like Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”), they’re likely not familiar with how much he has meant to his fellow Senegalese and other Africans throughout the world. And the film does a fine job of setting the context in this regard: providing a historical, cultural and religious backdrop, which, to a good degree, makes it as much a documentary about Senegal, its French colonial history, its people and its Sufi Muslim heritage.
The most compelling subject matter, of course, is the artist himself, who spends much of the film demonstrating a purity of heart and his sincere desire to present a softer, more tolerant Islam to the world at large via his music. Youssou comes across as a goodwill ambassador of great promise in a post-9/11 world, which is why it’s then so stunning to see how his most zealous of fans, the Senegalese people themselves, suddenly recoil from him, and how the aspersions begin to abound that Youssou is a debaser and an unholy man.
The West is presented in the film as being willing to open its arms to Youssou N’Dour, as “Egypt” receives acclaim throughout Europe and the United States and is then awarded the Best World Music Grammy in 2004. The dichotomy of these two worlds’ receptions to Youssou’s project suggests an important discussion is being lost in translation.
Although the film itself does not contain the discussion, it does seem to document the need for it, which only underscores the significance of Youssou’s efforts. As the film shows Youssou bit by bit winning over the hearts of musicians, clerics and Muslims along the way, this long-time national hero for Senegal is arguably seen growing into an international one.
Learn more about this film at www.ibringwhatilove.com.
Duluth-based film critic Robert Herling last reviewed “The Messenger” for the Budgeteer. Reach him by clicking on his byline above.