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Time of the Gypsies – and, in particular the Gypsy Jazz Festival
(Published: June 23, 2007)

Time of the Gypsies – and, in particular the Gypsy Jazz Festival.


Expatica Editor Hannah Westley takes a look at Django Reinhardt’s musical legacy and the popularity of Gypsy jazz today.


From Gogol Bordello to DeVotchKa, who wrote the score for the hit movie Little Miss Sunshine, to Nigel Kennedy and the Kroke Band, the sounds of gypsy jazz are

Gogol Bordello on stage
everywhere right now. There’s even a documentary by Jasmine Dellal with the French title of Gypsy Caravan to be released here during the Fête du Cinéma, which follows five famous Romany groups from different countries as they tour the States with their music. It seems that in the words of Emir Kusturica, now is truly the time of the gypsies.

Yet for many gypsy music enthusiasts in France, these evocative rhythms of guitar and violin will always be associated with smoky Parisian bistros and a two-fingered musical genius. The major annual Django Reinhardt festival takes place annually at Samois sur Seine from June 28th where the guitarist spent his final years. But a smaller and relatively unknown festival is now in its third year on the site of Europe's largest flea market – a place that will be forever associated with Reinhardt. Taking place over the course of one weekend (June 23rd) on stage as well as in bars and cafes around Saint Ouen market, one of the star turns is Reinhardt's guitarist grandson.

Django Reinhardt
Born in Belgium in 1910, Reinhardt’s mother’s gypsy tribe settled near the Paris fortifications when he was eight years old and this gypsy encampment at Saint Ouen became his home for many years. It was also the site of the accident which gave rise to his innovative and inimitable fingering technique.

Prodigiously talented from an early age, Django learned to play banjo and guitar at the age of 12 and was soon performing in Paris cafès and nightclubs, where he first heard jazz music. When he was 18 he returned from a concert at a new club called ‘La Java’ to his caravan home and his young wife, who made flowers out of celluloid to sell on the market. Knocking over a lit candle, Django set the caravan and its highly flammable contents ablaze.

After months in hospital to treat first and second degree burns, Reinhardt returned to the guitar and soon learnt to compensate for the loss of mobility in the third and fourth fingers of his left hand. In 1934, he went on to form the Quintette du Hot Club de France with violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Reinhardt’s brother Joseph and Roger Chaput on guitar. Their success in the UK and the States led to many recordings, while their fusion of jazz musette with American swing tunes heralded a new epoch in European jazz. This new jazz manouche or ‘String Swing’ gave jazz its first ever European voice.

If you know any great venues where gypsy jazz is played, let us know. Write to me at Hannah.Westley@expatica.com

Django died in 1953 at the young age of 43 but every year jazz musicians flock to the small town of Samois to pay tribute to his music. As Stéphane Grappelli famously observed “He did more for the guitar than any other man in jazz. His way of playing was unlike anyone else’s and jazz is different because of him. There can be many other fine guitarists but there can never be another Reinhardt.”

More Information: http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=25&story_id=41206

Submitted By: jazzears


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