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Sa Belle Belle Ba

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Editors’ Notes

The bewitching grooves of singer/guitarist Leni Stern’s Sa Belle Belle Ba brilliantly fuse Western and African musical idioms. Building upon the breakthroughs on her acclaimed 2007 release Africa, Stern once again taps into the rich culture of Mali in tandem with such master musicians as oud player Brahim Fribgane and vocalist Ami Sacko. Sweltering rhythms and incantatory lyrics give “Babakar,” “Smoke’s Risin’” and “Born Bad” an otherworldly power. Echoes of American funk and blues can be heard in the serpentine flow of “Nan Jeya” and the title track. The caressing, lullaby-like “Sera” and the string-draped ballad “Now I Close My Heart” work equally well in a softer strain. Stern’s acoustic and electric-guitar work displays their trademark precision and grace on the slow-boiling “Souma Chamon,” among other numbers. From the chant-like “Madoumba” to the Middle Eastern-accented “Yakhal Bi Khali,” Stern and her collaborators embrace a wide swath of sonic terrain. The spell-casting “Namu” makes the mystical content of the album’s songs clear.


Born: April 28, 1952 in Germany

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Leni Stern, who has received more recognition for her composing than her guitar playing, has managed to carve out her own musical personality despite being married to fellow guitarist Mike Stern (a potentially dominant influence). She began classical piano lessons when she was six, but was much more inspired a few years later when she discovered a guitar in the attic and taught herself to play jazz. Stern's early years were actually spent as an actress in her native Germany, featured on a national...
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Sa Belle Belle Ba, Leni Stern
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