Happy Birthday To The Late, Great Django Reinhardt!

Today, in 1910, a guitar legend was born in Liberchies, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium, to a family of Manouche gypsies. Though born with the first name Jean, he was given the nickname “Django” which means “I Awake” in the Romani language. Django Reinhardt was drawn to music at an early age and initially played the violin. At the age of twelve, he was given a banjo-guitar as a gift and quickly learned the instrument, mimicking the Roma musicians that surrounded him in the encampments outside of Paris. By thirteen, he was making a living as a musician and by eighteen, he’d made his first recordings, playing banjo.

That same year, the caravan that he shared with his first wife, caught fire. Returning home late from a performance, Django knocked over a candle on his way to bed. His wife made imitation paper flowers as a way to supplement their meagre income and as a result, their caravan was loaded with flammable materials. Django received first and second degree burns all over his body. His right leg was paralysed and the third and fourth fingers on his left hand were badly burned. Challenging doctor’s claims that he would never walk again, he refused to have one of his legs amputated and was walking with the aid of a cane within a year.
Read More…

Music >

San Francisco: Jonathan Richman Hosts Screening of Flamenco Film “Vengo”

French filmmaker Tony Gatlif is best know for his film “Latcho Drom,” which follows the trail of the Romani (Gypsy) people from Rajasthan in northwestern India to Spain. The film contained almost no dialogue and relied solely on music to tell the story of the Romani people and their journey from India to the European continent. The film was an unexpected success at Cannes in 1993, and it established Gatlif as a filmmaker to watch.

In 2000 Gatlif released “Vengo,” which describes a rivalry between two Andalucian families. The film was his ode to the artistry of flamenco dancing and allowed Gatlif to collaborate with one of the world’s greatest flamenco dancers, Antonio Canales. Canales plays the role of Caco, the film’s proud main character who must fight for his family’s honor and safety. “Vengo” provides non-Roma an opportunity to peek into the everyday lives and traditions of the Gypsy community and, like “Latcho Drom,” exposes new audiences to the incredible music of the Roma.
Read More…

Music >