Friday, February 18, 2011

Song of the week: Django Reinhardt - Daphne

WARNING: Some people might classify this as "old fart music". We are sorry for the inconvenience. 

Django Reinhardt. Source: All About Jazz
Jean "Django" Reinhardt was born into a family of Romani gypsies in Liberchies, Belgium in 1910. "Django" is Romani for "I awake".

Reinhardt was all but illiterate; from his early teens onwards he made a living playing the guitar. However, at the age of 18 his talent was threatened when he sustained first- and second-degree burns on 50% of his body from a fire in his caravan. The third and fourth fingers on his left hand were badly burned, and doctors told him he would never be able to play the guitar again.

However, Reinhardt was able to work around his handicap. He taught himself to play all of his guitar solos with only two fingers, using the two injured digits only for chord work. Even with his handicap he was still able to become one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century. Some of his most famous work was done as part of the "Quintette du Hot Club de France" (1934-48), which featured Reinhardt's close companion Stéphane Grappelli on the violin, Reinhardt's brother Joseph and Roger Chaput on guitar, and Louis Vola on bass.

Reinhardt's life was abruptly ended by a brain hemorrage in 1953. He was 43 years old. We can count Django Reinhardt among the people who lived a relatively short life but still managed to have a huge impact on the world.

Reinhardt's influence can be heard in many places. The Allman Brothers Band instrumental "Jessica" is a tribute to Reinhardt, written in such a way that it can be played using only two fingers. Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi was inspired by Reinhardt to keep playing guitar after a factory accident cost him two fingertips. Lastly, if not for Django, Pixar movies would not have been the same. One member of a brickfilm forum explains it like this:
As animators, we should always be seeking to steal people's secrets. This one seems like a huge one.
I've been trying to figure out Pixar's secret for a while now, but Brad Bird himself told me my previous theory was wrong. (fan mail is NOT intravenously fed to the animators to absorb the glee, creating a self-fulfilling amount of awesome)
I think I may have now discovered it.
The gypsy jazz stylings of Django Reinhardt. I had never considered it before, but on a lazy thursday afternoon I was handed a few discs of his music that I was lacking, and it suddenly hit me. Now, sitting here typing while listening, I am almost having to hold myself back from creating some sort of witty and charming cartoon featuring colourful and lively characters.
Is it true or not? Better not take any chances. Here's Django playing "Daphne".



  1. Even though it's not my kind of music, I still think it's a great story :) keep up the amazing blogposts! <3