In 2005, Youssou N’Dour won the Grammy for Best World Music Recording for his 2004 album Egypt; the irony of the award must have shaken him to some degree. The album --a collaboration with Egyptian composer Fathy Salama -- received raves worldwide almost from its release date for its unique and soulful celebration of major figures in Sufi Islam. That acclaim became a crucible for him in his homeland of Senegal, where it was scorned, denounced as blasphemous, apostate. In Senegalese culture, pop stars have no business singing about the sacred. The Grammy win actually helped to reverse that criticism to a degree, and gave validity to N’Dour at home, but it was a long road.
I Bring What I Love is the soundtrack from the motion picture of the same name. Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhely, who was witness to the events surrounding N'Dour on Egypt's world tour, it documents his life during this period, but also tells his story as a man, artist, and humanitarian. The music on the set contains of newly recorded versions of songs from N’Dour's storied career and includes a pair of new songs: the title theme written with James Newton Howard and Martin Davich, and the haunting, spiritual, “Yonnent (The Messenger)” performed in duet with griot Moustafa Mbaye. If you’re a fan who is wondering whether these new recordings measure up to the originals, you needn’t worry: They are different enough to seem new, infused with fresh energy and musical innovation. I Bring What I Love walks an interesting line in N’Dour's catalog: while it cannot be called a retrospective, it also cannot be regarded as a “new” album. That said, these interpretations carry within them the same uplifting sense of joy and hope that are the hallmarks of his music. For those who do not yet know his recordings, this soundtrack may indeed prove to be their introduction.