Says Joan Baez, “He may be the best Chilean songwriter of his generation. With his lyrics and melodies, delivery, humor and heart, he gets my vote.” The grandson of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution, Nano Stern’s childhood was painted not only by his own family’s activism and musicianship, but by the powerful legacy of the Nueva Canción protest movement, led by Chilean legends like Inti-Illimani and Victor Jara during the Pinochet regime. “I am extremely moved by that tradition,” explains Stern. “It’s like an enormous gift we receive from the past.” At 15, Nano joined the popular Chilean underground band Mattoral, and was initiated into the South American punk scene. Eventually the rock energy of Mattoral came together with his classical and jazz training, and the still-powerful influence of Chilean protest, to create a sound that’s pure Nano. Agile across a range of instruments, his closest companions remain his guitar and his staggering vocals, the basis of both his fluent, extraordinary musicianship and his wide-open heart. Critics have dubbed him a powerhouse, brilliantly layering indigenous, African, and European elements into a sound all his own, while bringing audiences to tears, to their feet, and to reverie with a singular kind of emotion and soulfulness. “I’m generally working to create a language of my own,” he says, and audiences emphatically agree.
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