Youssou N’Dour, Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take)
Looking past Dakar's city limits
Though less deliberately international in its ambitions than Egypt, Rokku Mi Rokka is hardly provincial. The cosmopolitan N’Dour looks past Dakar’s city limits to the north, to the West African deserts, all the way to Mali itself. A reunited Super Étoile provides the musical backbone, but the music stretches beyond mbalax to acknowledge that style’s Afro-Cuban roots (Orchestra Baobab’s Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis sing on “Xel”) and affinities with Malian blues, as longtime Ali Farka Touré sideman Bassekou Kouyate adds ngoni to five tracks. N’Dour’s lyrical scope also broadens over the course of the album, which kicks off with “4-4-44,” a celebration of Senegalese independence, encourages geographical and mental growth with titles that translate as “Travel” and “Think,” and concludes by addressing the world on “Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling),” another duet with Neneh Cherry, who sounds right at home this time.