Putting his lucrative recording and touring career on hold in response to what he called a “supreme patriotic duty,” the Senegalese singer, song writer Youssou N’Dour in 2012 announced he was running for president.
N’Dour, then aged 52, maintained he was forced into politics by circumstances: the reigning president Abdoulaye Wade had attempted to change the constitution to allow himself a third term.
Whereas the masses heralded him as a new beacon of hope for Senegal, political analysts pointed out that his main challenge was to translate his international popularity into votes. Indeed he never lasted that long.
His candidacy was disqualified before polls on a technicality. N’Dour then backed eventual poll winner, Macky Sall who when elected president, appointed him (N’Dour) first minister for culture and tourism.
The singer lost interest shortly after taking the ministerial post. He is back on world music tours. Closer to home, Charles Senkubuge “siasa”, a colourful stage actor and radio presenter stood for presidency in 2001 much to the surprise of many. Before they could hit the campaign trail, he quit the race citing death threats and refunded the Electoral Commission’s money.
It later emerged that the stance was just one of his clowning antics to attract fans to theatre where he enjoyed cultic status. Whereas music and theatre is a great recruiting tool used by all sides of the political spectrum to transmit ideology, it appears those behind these forms of persuasive arts aren’t really keen on benefiting through political office. They look to milk from their talent monetarily.
There are some exceptions. A few musicians have made it to the very top of national politics. Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood actor, is a stand-out as President of the United States and conqueror of Soviet Communism, as is Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright who was similarly a key figure in causing the collapse of the Eastern Bloc 20 years ago. Did you know that former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a great pianist who performed as a teenager at the Denver Symphony Orchestra?
Read more in the chano8 October issue here.