All about Django Reinhardt

Django, the Rom

No matter how much Django frequented Non-Roma, no matter how expensive his hotel rooms – sometimes he even stayed right at the Champs Elysées -, he always returned to his caravan, in short, he always was a member of the Roma, or – how the group calls itself – the Manouche. In many Romani dialects this term signifies "human" and its members are close relatives of the Sinti. Both groups have considerable differences to other Roma groups in common, but the Roma are one whole as far as common culture, language (Romanes), traditions, values and professions are concerned, a whole that has been native to the European continent for centuries.

The Manouche mainly settle in the French-speaking and the adjacent Flemish-Dutch area, that is France, Belium, and the Netherlands. Contrary to other groups of Roma they are still to a large extent itinerant, which is even more notable as their equally itinerant Sinti"brothers" have been murdered almost completely, and as traveling about was prevented in the communist countries of Central and Easter Europe by brutal reprisals.

The direction of influence between the Roma’s interpretation of "white" music on the one hand, and the influence of the Roma’s way to play on Non-Roma composers on the other cannot be determined. Roma musicians from Romania and Hungary influenced composers from the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy in the 19th century, such as, for instance, Liszt and Haydn. [The music of the Roma in Hungary] Roma from these areas who were living in Paris during the 1920ies performed – completely different from the Manouche – this music in their way. But not only the new immigrants, also the Manouche – this music in their way. But not only the new immigrants, also the Manouche which had been living in France for a long time, liked this musical genre. Gusti Malha and Mattéo Garcia, both members of the Calé (Kalé), that are the "Spanish Roma", were pioneers of this music. As examples of Manouche families of musicians in whose repertoire the valse manoushe can be found, Django Reinhardt’s family, the Vées family, relatives of the Reinhardts, and the Ferret family can be cited – Django owing the latter family a loyal member of the "Quintette du Hot Club de France", Baro Ferret.

It is quite paradoxical to talk about Django as one of the first really successful white jazz musicians, and then to be made aware of his origin; similarly, quite a few "typical" museum exhibits in local museums come, in truth, from the Roma.

He himself did not attach great value to his origin. On tour, during breaks, while playing billiards, he probably was French. When talking at home to his parents, or when he had difficulties in expressing himself in French when talking to intellectuals, he might have felt a Rom. And how did he feel when he held his guitar in the left, and the plectrum in the right hand?

ROMBASE © by Peter Wagner

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