Seven seconds and two feet away

A few weeks ago I was looking at the concert listings, wondering who would ever want to go with me to watch Youssou N’Dour. Then again I only knew one of his songs from my childhood days…
Then some relatives invited me to watch a performance with them. At first I was told it was some jazz concert. Then I learnt it was the Mosaic / Putumayo World Music concert, featuring the West African himself!
We had front seats, which meant I had a neck ache and deafened ears by the end of the concert. But it was really inspiring. For the first half we were treated to the ethnic music of Susheela Raman, British-born Indian singer with a powerful, rich voice. What was beautiful was how the sound engineer created a strong echo at certain phrases, making it sound more haunting and lingering.
After the interval, it was time to rumble! Up came three percussionists, one drummer, a bassist, a lead guitarist, two keyboardists, a female backup vocalist and Youssou. It felt like half an orchestra walked up on stage. What keyboards do Youssou’s band use? A Yamaha DX7 and a Korg Triton Pro (yeah!) which served as what sounded like a substitute vibraphone.
I was just half a metre from Youssou and he sang many songs in a language I could not understand, but it didn’t matter because it was also music, which was universal. As the audience grew bolder he encouraged us to join in the singing. At some points it felt like he was pointing the microphone at me – right above my head on some occasions – and because you sit in front you don’t see people behind you and it feels personal.
One of his last songs was the hit Seven Seconds, which I sang along to. It was obvious that his backup vocalist was better than some lead singers! Thicker, more powerful than Neneh Cherry but with a heavier accent. These people are so, so talented – I’d rather listen to them than any fake teen pop star, anytime.
One distracting element was that fat ‘belly’ dancer who came in for the more upbeat songs. Her movements were so sudden that her bare, wobbly midrift would be flung, by momentum, in one direction, only to be thrust ruthlessly seconds later in the opposite direction. When she came on for the encores, she thrashed about so violently that a costume accessory fell off, then a ring flew off her finger and went into the front row. Someone kindly returned the ring to her after the concert was over. I felt she stuck out a bit because she wasn’t dressed in traditional costume like everyone else.
Anyway, we gave Youssou two or three standing ovations so he obliged! My hands were sore from clapping. He taught us how to say a few words of greeting (which I am unable to spell out here) and showed us he was proud of Africa – despite the problems going on it was a happy place.
He was certainly a fine ambassador tonight.


  1. Queenie

    AAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGH!!!!!! I wanted to go to the Youssou concert but could not think of anyone to go with…so I did’nt go. ARRRGHHHHHHH. Necks times yoo knows I go for anytings musicks wif you! AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHH
    (*musically deprived*)
    P.s I think bellydancing costume is traditional…but i’ve learnt that the fatter u r the better the dance looks. skinnychimps like me look weird doin the dance…

  2. vantan

    Aiyoh. OK that’s it. From now on I’m going to blog about every concert / play / movie I want to go to, and anybody in Singapore who knows me (or is eligible and decent with no intentions of breaking my heart) can suggest a date.
    We could start a new trend…

Comments are closed.