S+ Stimulant: Django Reinhardt
Born in 1910, Jean ‘Django’ Reinhardt was a French jazz guitarist of Romani descent.
Young Jean grew up in poor encampments just outside of Paris, which is where he was given the nickname Django, meaning ‘I awake’ in Romani. It was then, in the musically vibrant community, that Django first developed his passion for music. He began by playing the violin but the banjo-guitar quickly became his instrument of choice, after receiving one as a gift at the age of 12. Django was never taught how to read music, but quickly became an incredibly adept guitarist by mimicking the fingering of musicians that he watched.
After 5 years of making a career out of playing music, Django was involved in a serious accident at the age of 18. His caravan caught on fire in the middle of the night and he received first- and second-degree burns all over his body. His right leg was paralysed and his fourth and fifth fingers badly burned. Django was told that he would never play the guitar again.
However, Django was determined to continue his career as a musician and, after a long and hard rehabilitation, he had learned how to play in an entirely new way by incorporating his two paralysed fingers into his technique.
By 1929 Django had discovered the jazz movement, and in 1934 he would co-found the Quintette du Hot Club de France along with violinist Stéphane Grappelli.
The quintette would go for from strength to strength, recording many records and achieving increased notoriety throughout France and indeed the rest of the world. Despite his supposedly debilitating injury and the fact that he had received no formal education (including musically; he never learned how to read music) Django became regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Django is known worldwide to this day not just for his unique brand of Gypsy Jazz but also for his gritty never say die attitude.
Published: September 30th, 2014