In the world of the European guitar players there is a instrumental tradition that has its roots in the culture of the nomadic manouche, one of the principle gipsy families of the continent. A tradition in which music is more authenticly Spanish, result of the fusion of various cultures absorbing rhythmic elements of American Jazz accordion that has become known the world over, due to the talent of Django Reinhardt. The Manouche swing was born by the meeting of American jazz from the thirties , from the musette French valzer and the Tzigane tradition. There has been a fusion of nomadic gipsy music directly combined with other musical influences . This magic fusion is like a is the legendary Django Reinhardt, himself Manouche. This grand musician was able of combining the liberty of expression with the Tzigane virtuosity of phrasing, concentrating in himself the musical substance linking the past with the future. Today, in less than 50 years from the death of Django Reinhardt, Jazz Manouche (Swing manouche, gipsy jazz) continues to evolve with always more people that listen , play him and love him.
The nomadic manouche are the descendents from the oldest gipsy lineage. They came to Western Europe between the XV and the XVI century, after a journey lasting almost a millennium, they had permanent bases in France, Holland, Germany and Belgium. Their Indian origins confirmed the name Manouche , belonging to Indo European lineage. It has become part of the French language known as Manouche from the ancient Hindi deriving from the term manusa, to be human.
A significant contribution to the development of the musical style of Manouche happened during the 30s when Django Reinhardt, himself manouche, was guitarist and composer.
In 1934 Dj, created with the violinist Steph . Grappelli the string quintet the Hot Club of France. An interesting and new European Jazz was born. For the next 20 years, Dj. Was able to show diverse aspects of his immense talent. A virtuoso of instruments capable of radically reinventing the approach of the guitar in jazz, a composer of incredible masterpieces. He was always searching for inspiration for new trends , moving from swing to bop, from acoustic guitar to electric guitar, but never losing sight of his cultural roots of his particular sound.
In short, this is a rare example of pure musical intelligence of the fashion and times. Django died of a brain haemorrhage on the 16th may 1953 aged only 43. Let’s move to Germany in 1967 and witness the birth of what today is called Jipsy Jazz or Swing Manouche , around the charismatic figure of the violinist Schnuckenak Reinhartd , with whom many musicians learned their work before starting their own ensembles. The Sinti musicians discovered Django through the records and through the musical practices of their own family.
They love to hear and to play their own music and this is passed from father to son with great cultural pride. In the Manouche community the tradition is passed orally during holidays and between families where the music always takes predominant place.
Without doubt the invention of this new folklore dates back to the 70s. The main reference for its development is the first string quintet of Django, that was formed before the war.
The double bass forms the base of the rhythm section ( called by them the pomp manouche) a guitar soloist, a virtuoso violin and sometimes an accordionist.
The Guitar players, faithful to their masters, give priority to the virtuosity of the show. The starting point of their studies is a number of compositions of Django (namely Nuages, Minor Swing, Manoir de me Rèves…), By the standards played by Django before 1940 and by other musette valtzer (influenced by swing accordionist like Gus Viseur, Tony Muréna o Jo Privat). This phenomenon was of both social and aesthetic nature has been called, maybe wrongly Gipsy Jazz. The Manouche did not adhere at all to Jazz, but to the style of Django with the desire to affirm their ethnic belonging.
Il Gypsy Jazz o Swing Manouche possono essere meglio descritti come movimento folcloristico, folklore vivente aperto a influenze esterne nel quale è possibile ogni sorta di scambio, abbracciando un ampio spettro di stili pur rimanendo nel proprio contesto musicale. Da una buona decina d'anni l'influenza di Django sembra non diminuire affatto: sono stati organizzati nuovi festival a lui dedicati in Francia (Django Memorial Festival – Samois Sur Seine , Festival di Angers e Strasburgo), Belgio, Germania (Django Reinhardt Festival di Augsburg), Svezia (Gypsy Jazz Festival di Thorshalla), Inghilterra (UK Gypsy Fest), Norvegia (Django Festival in Oslo), Canada, Stati Uniti (Django Festival di New York al Birdland, North West Django Fest a Washington, San Francisco, Chicago), Islanda (Django Jazz Festival di Akureyri), Giappone e Italia (Festival Jazz Manouche Django Reinhardt di Torino).
Diversi gruppi composti da zigani o da gadjès (termine zigano per definire la popolazione non zigana) stanno conferendo un nuovo look alla musica dell'Hot Club, suonandola sui palchi, registrando in studio, viaggiando e facendo rivivere questa tradizione e riscontrando un successo popolare sempre crescente.
Django Reinhardt Photogallery
The typical Manouche Jazz guitars, are an exact copy of the famous lute-maker Mario Maccaferri Selmer guitars, which have been used by Django Reinhardt in the Thirties and Forties. Click on image to enlarge.