Montana Public Radio

Leni Stern Makes A Musical Statement, Merging African Music And Jazz

Jul 26, 2018

“It has always been a political act, a practice in strength and defiance, to be a woman and a bandleader, a female electric guitarist and composer, who puts out her own albums and manages her own career..."

Those are the words of Leni Stern, German-born, New York-based electric guitarist, singer and composer.

She's been making recordings for over 25 years and has won Gibson’s "Female Jazz Guitarist of the Year" award five times. But when Stern met ngoni hero Bassekou Kouyate and his wife Ami Sacko thirteen years ago at Mali’s Festival au Desert, she plunged into the study of the African instrument and started to interpret the rhythms and tonalities of West Africa through a jazz lens.

Stern isn’t just a composer, bandleader and featured musician; at the age of seventeen, she formed her own successful European acting company before studying film score composition at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and moving into jazz and rock performance. She owns her own record company, LSR, and teaches and performs around the world.

Stern’s website states: “In our current political climate, it is now even more essential to celebrate the immigrant experience that brought Leni Stern to the U.S. from Germany and her African bandmates from Senegal and to revere the diverse languages which she speaks and sings in. It is Leni’s unique goal to trace the interconnectedness of music, history, and our humanity.”

(Broadcast: "Musician's Spotlight,"  3/15/18 and 7/26/18. Listen on the radio Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., or via podcast.)