Mali’s troubles began last year. A military coup destabilized the country, which gave rise to a rebellion in the north of the country. Tuareg rebels saw their uprising mutate into an Islamist infiltration. Al-Qaida-controlled groups now rule over an area in northern Mali the size of France.
They have forbidden unwed men and women from mixing in public. They’ve banned smoking and television. And in a country famous for its deeply influential singers and guitarists, Islamists have now banned music in much of Mali.
Jazz musician Leni Stern was living Mali’s capital city of Bamako when the chaos erupted. She could have left. But she stayed. And continued recording tracks for her new album, “Smoke, No Fire”.
Stern isn’t just any guitarist. She’s widely considered “The First Lady” of jazz guitar. She won the Gibson Female Jazz Guitarist of the year award — for five years straight. Stern’s talent, however, is diverse. She studied film scoring at Berklee College of Music and has invoked the sounds of India, New Orleans, Kenya and the Cheyenne nation in her music.