According to Forbes, Youssou N’Dour is the richest African musician in the world in 2022, with a net worth of $145 million. N’Dour is a Senegalese singer, composer, occasional actor, businessman, and politician best known for his work in music.
His enormous net worth arose from the use of his distinct voice and the popularization of the well-known Senegalese style of music known as Mbalax. On October 1, 1959, he was born in Dakar, Senegal. He served as Senegal’s Minister of Tourism from April 2012 to September 2013. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine maintained that N’Dour is “perhaps the most famous singer alive” in Senegal and much of Africa.
He is the focus of the internationally distributed films Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (2008) and Return to Gorée (2007), both of which won awards for their respective directors, Pierre-Yves Borgeaud and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.
N’Dour played Olaudah Equiano in the 2006 movie Amazing Grace. N’Dour started his musical career at a very young age. He joined Super Diamono—a ten-member musical band from Dakar—at the age of 15, and in 1975, he went on tour with them throughout West Africa. At the age of 16, N’Dour obtained a contract to perform with Ibra Kasse’s Star Band at Kasse’s Miami club in Dakar, where he would go on to become famous.
When the Star Band split up in 1978 to form Étoile de Dakar, a group that made significant contributions to Senegal’s developing musical genre known as Mbalax by fusing traditional Senegalese music with Latin-influenced styles that had previously dominated Senegalese popular music, N’Dour would follow.
Despite becoming one of the most well-known bands in the area very fast, the group’s existence was brief owing to internal issues. He started his own music label, Jololi, in 1995 after opening his own recording studio in 1991.
One of the most well-known African musicians in history, millions of people worldwide are fans of his blend of indigenous Senegalese Mbalax and diverse influences including Cuban rumba, hip hop, jazz, and soul. N’Dour has worked with a number of artists in the West, including Wyclef Jean, Axelle Red, Sting, Alan Stivell, Bran Van 3000, Neneh Cherry, and Peter Gabriel, among many renowned international acts.
His voice was described as an “arresting tenor, a supple weapon deployed with prophetic authority” by the American daily newspaper, New York Times. The entire Senegalese musical landscape was incorporated into N’Dour’s work, frequently via the prism of genre-bending rock or pop from outside of Senegalese culture.
The Opéra Garnier hosted the world premiere of N’Dour’s Africa Opera in July 1993 as part of the French Festival Paris Quartier d’été. N’Dour collaborated with Neneh Cherry on his biggest international hit record, the trilingual duet “7 Seconds,” which was released in 1994.
Together with Axelle Red, he co-wrote and performed “La Cour des Grands,” the official anthem of the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
N’Dour rose to prominence in Senegal as an influential figure concerned with social issues. He planned a performance in 1985 to support Nelson Mandela’s release. He collaborated with Lou Reed on a cover of the Peter Gabriel song “Biko” that was produced by Richard James Burgess and included on the Amnesty International benefit album The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball. He was a featured performer on the 1988 global Amnesty International Human Rights Now Tour.
Awards and nominations
N’Dour won the 2005 Grammys for Best Contemporary World Music Album. His biggest international hit “7 Seconds” won the Best International Song category of the Danish Music Awards, in 1995. “7 Seconds” also won the 1994 MTV Europe Music Awards’ Best Song category.
N’Dour nominated himself as Best African Act for the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards in 2005 and won. N’Dour’s Joko and Dakar-Kingston albums were nominated for Victoires de la Musique in 2001 and 2011 respectively, in the World Music Album of the Year category.
His current wife, Aida Coulibaly, is a French-Senegalese métisse with whom he has two daughters. Coulibaly became Youssou N’Dour Foundation’s president.