African-born jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke's distinctive blend of African, European and American pop and jazz traditions is due in large part to his biography. He was born in Benin and was first inspired to play by his brother, who was in an Afro-pop outfit. Loueke took to the guitar quickly, influenced by regional pop music and jazz guitarist George Benson, and he left Benin to study music in the Ivory Coast, Paris and the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After graduating he enrolled in the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and worked with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard. His debut as a solo artist and bandleader was issued on Blue Note in March 2008.