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A little word or two about Django Sur Lennon from John Kinsella

“Without music life would be a mistake.” 

I think it it was Donough Cleary said that… oh wait… maybe it is a very well-known quote from the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Anyway, it rings so true to any serious musician or listener or those of us who play and listen to Manouche Jazz.

So what is this so called ‘Gypsy Jazz’ huh?

Gypsy Jazz, Manouche Jazz, Gypsy Swing, Hot Club Jazz or whatever label you wish to put on it, was born from a unique style by a couple of guys back in the 1930’s Parisian Jazz scene namely Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. To explain it a little further, I refer to one of the modern Gypsy Jazz guitarists Dennis Chang who wrote a very interesting essay on the history of the genre.

“Django discovered jazz through French artist Emile Savitry around 1930. He immediately fell in love with the music; this hot jazz was very reminiscent of the Gypsy spirit of virtuosity and improvisation. From then on, he would practically dedicate his entire life to jazz music. The famous Quintette du Hot Club de France was formed as a result of numerous impromptu and informal backstage jam sessions at the Hotel Claridge where Django Reinhardt, violinist Stéphane Grappelli, guitarist Roger Chaput, and bassist Louis Vola were performing with a dance orchestra under Vola’s direction. These four musicians were fascinated with jazz and would get together backstage during breaks to jam and improvise. This is the original formation of the group (minus one guitar). Note, that the only Gypsy among them was Django! The idea of a purely string jazz band was circumstantial. French impresario Charles Delaunay encouraged these four to form a band together and Django’s brother Joseph was brought along on rhythm guitar to create a heavier rhythm section.”

And it was from this group of musicians a unique style of Jazz emerged to become known as ‘Manouche Jazz’.

So how did Django Sur Lennon festival come about?

The idea to run a Gypsy Jazz festival in Donegal was first mooted at a ‘La Pompe’  band rehearsal a couple of years ago … ‘La Pompe’ are a local Gypsy Jazz Band whose members are Donough Cleary, Martin McGinley, John Kinsella, Simon McCafferty and Damien Doherty.

Donough mentioned he had been to a Gypsy Jazz festival in Cloughjordan, Tipperary and Martin suggested we should run one in Donegal. I think that night became more of a festival meeting than a band rehearsal. Thus Django Sur Lennon was born.

 Donough suggested that the festival should be called “djangosurlennon”  in homage to the famous Django festival outside Paris in Samois Sur Seine, with the Lennon being a river running through the town of Ramelton in Donegal, Ireland where most of the festival would take place.

The members of La Pompe subsequently became the organising committee for the festival along with the invaluable assistance of Donal Casey, another local Django enthusiast.

This is the 3rd year of the Django Sur Lennon festival and, as in previous years, it promises to be a fantastic musical experience. Previous years have seen some of the world’s greatest ambassadors of the Gypsy Jazz genre land on the shores of the river Lennon, Names like Romane,  Paulus Schäfer, Marcel LoefferDario Napoli…not forgetting ‘La Pompe’…..the list goes on…

So… why not make a bee-line down to the picturesque heritage village of Ramelton this September and experience this Gypsy Jazz music! I can assure you… you will not be disappointed… in fact you’ll be knocked out, bowled over, flabbergasted, fascinated and dazzled and eh… all that stuff..!! Haha see you there!