Friday, December 21, 2007

Dancing at Youssou N'Dour's show @ UCLA

y&a small

Three weeks after I got back from my Magnificent Month Away, Youssou N'Dour came to TOWN!!!! His show at UCLA was breathtaking and his musicians were in steaming form. Every one of Royce Hall's 2000 seats was sold out, but I could barely sit still through the first three songs ... were we really going to sit through two hours of Youssou N'Dour and Les Super Etoiles de Dakar?!!!

Finally, he said "You know, you are all welcome to dance" and I flew out of my seat as if The Spirit had called me. No lie, I felt like I wasn't in charge at all. Running down to the front all alone, where the aisle met the stage, I did a full blown niari gorong solo to the song they were doing. With that, the entire room jumped to its feet and started dancing.

I danced down front the entire night in a state of utter ecstasy. Youssou's music has been my life's soundtrack for so many years and I am a shameless fan! When Youssou was recording The Lion in Paris, my then manager (who also managed Peter Gabriel) flew me there from London to meet the whole band. Over the years, I saw Youssou backstage at his shows in New York, Los Angeles, and London, ate dinner together with him and Peter at Real World the night they recorded Shaking the Tree (Rossana cooked spaghetti!), and even said, "Hello!" at Dakar's Xippi studios when I visited Africa with my husband.

At UCLA, Youssou thanked me during the show for co-writing Boul Bayekou, and I went onstage to do a solo for one of the happiest moments of my LIFE! (Here's the YouTube clip ... I love how Youssou says, "Ash-ley!" at the very end!):
Ashley Solo @ Youssou's show ... and a photo, too!

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Afterwards, Habib Faye came out into the lobby looking for me!! (We worked together in the studio for three weeks for the English National Opera years ago...his musicality blew my mind and he made me laugh and laugh, he was sooo funny!) Habib said, "WOW! I knew you could sing and write, but I didn't know you could DANCE like that!" Backstage, the band said the same, Jimi Mbaye told them how he'd seen me in Dakar two weeks previously, and Youssou hugged me and said, "Let's stay in touch!" HEAVEN!

habib and ashley small

Finally, a Senegalese friend in Montreal attended their tour's final show and emailed me this:
Hi Ashley,

The video is amazing...U R THA BEST....the boys of Super Etoile have a lot of respect for your work and talent. After the show, I had a conversation with Youssou and Habib about your performance in L.A....after years performing live, Habib said that he never saw a TOUBAB with such good understanding of sabar, Youssou added that it's a gift from God...literally in Wolof ( Yalla daf ko maï ).
That email made my day!!!

I posted the video on YouTube (500 views and counting) and it got picked up by (15,000 views and counting). Three weeks later, I'm still trying to come down to earth…then again, do I really want to?! I am soooo blessed!!!!!