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Lionel Loueke’s Winding Journey

For his latest album, the guitarist takes on the subject of 21st-century migration and reckons with his own artistic path

Lionel Loueke
Lionel Loueke (photo: Jean-Baptiste Millot)

In early October, just after concluding two concerts in Kuwait City with Herbie Hancock and two weeks before embarking on a month of European one-nighters with Dave Holland’s Aziza quartet, Lionel Loueke was on the phone from Switzerland. The subject was his 2018 release, The Journey (Aparté), which contains 15 of the guitarist/singer’s compositions. Some are instrumental, but on most Loueke applies his lilting tenor to lyrics in Fon, French, Mina, and Yoruba, all languages spoken in his homeland, Benin, on the Atlantic coast of equatorial Africa.

“I was thinking about this project for a long time,” said Loueke, who’d spent the day teaching at the Jazz Campus of Musik Akademie Basel. “I wanted to do an acoustic, melody-oriented project that mixed all my influences from the beginning to where I am today, combining classical musicians and instruments with traditional instruments from Africa and jazz musicians in the most organic possible way.”

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