It was dark in that tent in Paris and so hot that condensation dripped from the canvas. Then, cutting through everything, came a voice of liquid gold.
I had gone to see if Youssou N'Dour would be a good artist for WOMAD, the festival of world music, arts and dance we were launching. Back then, in the early '80s, Youssou's music was really known only to fellow Senegalese. I was totally blown away. I loved the grooves, the emotion and the melodiesbut most of all, that voice, a passionate instrument.
Soon afterward I traveled to Senegal to see Youssou perform at his old club next to the fish market. This was the beginning of a long musical relationship and a close friendship. I offered him the support slot on two tours, and every time he went out on the stage, it was like the sun breaking through the clouds.
I've watched Youssou, 47, grow effortlessly, as more and more demands are made on him, into a major African leader, pioneering campaigns to improve the spread of technology, working to combat malaria and being involved, too, with Unicef. He is a source of inspiration to me not just as a musician but as a person.
Gabriel, a singer and activist, has won four Grammy Awards
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