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Leni Stern: Storyteller

By Published: December 19, 2007
It was, very, very interesting. Jeff Beck also did some studying of that Indian stuff and it's kind of related to the way modern guitar is played, not just musically, but how you play. And again it's a very emotional way of playing the guitar. The guitar is a difficult instrument to not just rattle off some fast, fabulous line, but to really make it sing like a voice. It's a metal string on a piece of wood, and to put some life into that is not an easy task. The Indian way of looking at things really helps with that.

AAJ: Can you see yourself following up Africa with an album of Indian-inspired music at all?

LS: Well, yeah, I am combining the two things. Both of them are Moslem traditions. The Mogul emperors of India were the big supporters of music there. They had court orchestras in a Moslem tradition and they have that in common with African music.

AAJ: Returning to Africa for a second, you were recently back in Africa recording the U2 song "One, with Salif Keita. What's the story behind that?

LS: Salif asked me to do it. He always wanted to sing in English and when I came back recently he asked me if I would help him to sing in English. He's very uptight about English, but I thought, "You speak English very well, why not sing it? And he asked me to put the guitars down for the track. I'm not sure what he's going to do with it but it came out fabulously. His version is wonderful.

AAJ: Your whole African adventure sounds like it was an edifying experience. Where do you think it's going to lead you to?

LS: I don't know, I don't know. I just got a call to do another African festival. Many jazz musicians go to Europe to do a lot of their playing and I guess we'll be doing a lot of our playing with African musicians, with African bands.

Leni SternAAJ: You practice Hung Ga Kung Fu, how good are you?

LS: I have a black belt. It helps when you can defend yourself like a man. I do like to take the privileges that men have, and I think with that comes the responsibility. All men know how to defend themselves and women have to find somebody that will defend them. I think it's only fair that if you don't want to live by the rules of women, if you want to live by the rules of men you have to do what men have to do.

AAJ: Might you take another change of career and take up a career as a martial arts instructor?

LS: [laughs] No, no! It's mainly for my health and for my wellbeing, and to enable me to do what I love doing which is having adventurous travel. No problems sleeping by myself in a tent in the middle of the desert surrounded by wild Tauregs. I really sleep very well, and I don't think I would if I didn't train.

AAJ: What would you like to do next?

LS: I would love to tour the world with this music. I have put together a great group of African musicians and I would love to continue touring in America, in Africa, in Europe...

Selected Discography

Leni Stern, Africa (LSR, 2007)
Leni Stern, Alu Maye (LSR, 2007)
Leni Stern, Love Comes Quietly (LSR, 2006)
Leni Stern, When Evening Falls (LSR, 2004)
Leni Stern, Finally the Rain Has Come (LSR, 2002)
Leni Stern, Kindness of Strangers (LSR, 2000)
Leni Stern, Recollection (LSR, 1998)
Leni Stern, Black Guitar (LSR, 1998)
Leni Stern, Separate Cages (LSR, 1996)
Leni Stern, Words (Lipstick Records, 1995)
Leni Stern, Like One (Lipstick Records, 1993)
Leni Stern, Ten Songs (Lipstick Records,1992)
Leni Stern, Closer to the Light (Enja Records,1990)
Leni Stern, Secrets (Enja Records,1989)
Leni stern, The Next Day (Passport,1987)
Leni Stern, Clairvoyant (Passport,1985)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Latifa Metheny

Bottom Photo: Courtesy of Leni Stern

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