music icon, Youssou N’Dour, has dedicated his 75 million CFA, equivalent to
D6,150,000, prize money that comes with
the Japanese Imperial Nobel Prize for Art to the musicians of his country.
The Japan Art Association awarded N’Dour, among the five recipients, the 29th prestigious Præmium Imperiale International Arts Awards. N’Dour is one of two African laureates who received this year’s award; the other one is Ghanaian sculptor, El Anatsui. They are both the first from their respective countries to receive the award.
The Senegalese singer and each of the other awardees received 15 million yen (approximately US$134,000) as the prize money.
Upon his return to Senegal from Tokyo, Japan, where a special ceremony was held for the laureates on 18 October, N’Dour said the prize money and the award were dedicated to the Senegalese artists.
At the award ceremony, the awardees received a specially-designed gold medal and a testimonial letter from His Imperial Highness Prince Hitachi, honourary patron of the Japan Art Association.
The awardees were “chosen because of their artistic achievements, their international renown and because their work has enriched humanity,” the organisers said.
The Præmium Imperiale was created in 1988 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Japan Art Association and to honour the late Prince Takamatsu, who was the association’s honorary patron for almost six decades.
The Præmium Imperiale – the world’s most prestigious international prize in the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and theatre/film – recognises lifetime achievement.
Winners are chosen by the association based on the recommendations of nominating committees, chaired by statesmen and business leaders, in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Now in its 29th year, the award brings international recognition to the arts in much the same way as the Nobel Prize does to the sciences.
The 2017 winners of the Præmium Imperiale join 144 of the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Youssou N’Dour, the first Senegalese recipient of the Præmium Imperiale, began performing at the age of 12, initially with the Star Band and then with his own band, Étoile de Dakar.
His music is a joyful mix of traditional Senegalese Mbalax, jazz, soul, Latin and even hip-hop, but words remain central to his art, and his songs deal with a vast range of social issues.
His voice and extraordinary vocal range are closely associated with world music, a genre created in the late 1980s through collaborations of musicians like N’Dour with western musicians like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and Sting.
In 1994, ‘7 Seconds’, a hugely successful collaboration with the Swedish singer-songwriter Neneh Cherry, turned N’Dour into an internationally recognised musical artist.
In 2004, he won a Grammy Award for his album Egypt. In 2012, N’Dour stopped performing to run in the Senegalese presidential election, returning to the stage in 2013. His 34th album, ‘Africa Rekk’, was released in 2016.