The Cat Stole the Moon (Djakouma E Kalo Mine)
Like a Thief
I Was Born (Ibe Keneya)
Leni Stern's fusion of jazz and rock with African traditions reveals deep knowledge and commitment. Sabani finds her moving away from larger ensemble arrangements in favor of a more intimate trio setting, with the help of Mali-based players Haruna Samake and Mamadou Kone dit Prince. In these tracks, Stern achieves an effortless blend of subtly intoxicating rhythms and virtuosic instrumental work, unreeling elegant yet forceful lines on electric and acoustic guitar and n’goni ba (African lute). Her lyrics reveal a strong strain of mysticism that touches on tribal folklore (“Sorcerer”) and a universal desire for freedom (“Papillon”). “Like a Thief” is a particularly haunting invocation of love’s mysteries that adds a Celtic melodic element to the mix. Stern’s voice (hushed, husky, and oddly seductive) draws out the buried hurt within “Still Bleeding” and catches the cry of longing in “I Was Born (Ibe Keneya).” Soukou player Zoumana Tareta’s smoldering vocals add resonance to “Djanfa,” the ritual-like piece closing the album.