Jelell (Leni Stern Recordings, 2013)
Jazz guitarist Leni Stern has been working with African musicians for the past years, blending jazz fusion with West African beats, vocals and melodies. Her new album Jelell, recorded in Dakar (Senegal), continues these explorations with a focus on the music of Senegal.
The band on Jelell includes Leni stern on guitars, ngoni and vocals; Mamadou Ba on electric bass (musical director for Harry Belafonte), and Senegalese musician Alioune Faye on jembe, calabash and percussion. Jelell also includes a sabar drumming ensemble formed by Faye’s five percussionist brothers. Guests include Haurona Samake on kamele n’goni, Leo Genovese on keyboards, Idriss Diop on vocals, Jazz on rap vocals, and Marieme on backing vocals.
The material on Jelell includes ‘Baonaan, a traditional rain prayer from northern Senegal; and the lullaby ‘Light Out.’ “This is the first African-inspired song that I ever composed,” says Stern referring to ‘Light Out.’
Wrestling has become a major sport in Senegal. Stern dedicates the piece ‘Balla’ to one of the most popular wrestlers in the country. “You’re going to become famous in Senegal,” Mamadou Ba told Stern, “writing a song about Balla.”
Highlights include the primarily instrumental pieces ‘Babacar’, ‘Bubbles’, and ‘Rabbit.’