Originally from the small West African nation of Benin, guitarist Lionel Loueke has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past ten years.
Starting out on vocals and percussion, Lionel Loueke picked up the guitar late, at age 17. After his initial to exposure to jazz in Benin, he left to attend the National Institute of Art in nearby Ivory Coast. In 1994 he left Africa to pursue jazz studies at the American School of Modern Music in Paris, then came to the U.S. on a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. From there, Loueke gained acceptance to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, where he encountered his Gilfema bandmates Biolcati, Nemeth, Parlato and other musicians with whom he would form lasting creative relationships.
In 2008 and 2009, Lionel Loueke was picked as top Rising Star guitarist in Down Beat magazine's annual Critics Poll.