Friday, December 15, 2017

Django Fest brings Roma flair to Victoria

February 1, 2017 by Aaron Stefik, contributing writer

This month, venues along Victoria’s waterfront district will be transformed into a world of near-mystical performance art rooted in the wayfaring soul of the European Roma and the sparkling jazz clubs of the first half of the 20th century. It was by the blending of these two styles that Django Reinhardt, himself Romani, crafted a unique amalgam of musical tradition that is today celebrated across Europe and North America in the form of Django festivals.

“We have a very vibrant local Django community, with a lot of great, important international artists based out of this area,” says festival organizer Oliver Swain. “And I just thought that between that and the culture of Paris in the ’20s and ’30s, there are a lot of elements that are really worth experiencing and emulating, and the incredible music and how much I love it.”

The style of jazz encapsulated by the performers at Django festivals, known as hot jazz or gypsy jazz, has long stood apart from other musical genres for its unique instrumentation and style of performance.

Django Fest organizer Oliver Swain (photo provided).

“The main difference is that it’s a string band,” says Swain, “all strings, and very guitar-driven. Django Reinhardt himself is the greatest guitar player of all time; he really pushed the instrument. It becomes interesting, because with no drums, the stringed instruments can take centre stage, and occasionally a bit of clarinet, and a bit of horns. But with the stringed arrangement, you can sort of hear more; you can hear the guitar more. In the world of guitar music, Django is considered one of the greats, just on the instrument.”

Swain says the particulars of the style of music were very dependent upon social and technological elements that had evolved by the first half of the century.

“Suddenly there was radio really changing the reality for the learning and spreading of music; it became less of a regional expression,” he says. “And so, in this transition away from regionalism as a culture, this incredible mixing together happened with a lot of really unique flowerings around the world, and this example of this group of Roma people getting interested and being able to get very good at ragtime and swing, primarily from Europe, was something that was never possible before that moment in time.”

Django Fest
Friday, February 10;
Saturday, February 11;
Tuesday, February 14
various prices and venues

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