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From adversity to resource

photos from Wikipedia

Big, colorful fake flowers fill the trailer like a garden. They catch fire immediately when a candle approaches the plastic and flames envelop everything.
It is 1928 and Django Reinhardt is just eighteen years old. Little does he know that that night will change his life and add an important piece to the history of jazz.

Born into a family of Sinti descent, he grew up among the carriages and streets of Paris. He cannot read or write, but even as a boy, buoyed by a talent that stands out, he plays the fiddle and banjo. People love to listen to him.

On the day of the accident, his career seemed poised for a breakthrough because Jack Hylton, “the British king of jazz,” offered him a contract with his orchestra. Fate, however, goes even further. In the trailer sleeps his wife, who is pregnant: she has prepared flowers for the funeral of a Sinti boy. From the fire that suddenly erupts, triggered by the candle flame, they are both saved. But Django has deep burns to one leg (which he risks losing) and to his left hand: with his little finger and ring finger atrophied, returning to playing seems impossible.

The years of convalescence are long and hard, but it is during this period that he becomes the Django Reinhardt that everyone knows today. Creativity must come to terms with his new condition, he matures a style that will establish him among the most famous jazz guitarists. With two half-paralyzed fingers he manages to touch the hearts of Parisians who flock to hear him.

He met violinist Stephane Grappelli and with him founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France. He combines American jazz and traditional Gypsy music: gypsy jazz, in fact. Not even World War II managed to stop his music, and it was during these years that Django recorded one of his most appreciated compositions. One of his best-known photos portrays him (finally) in New York City: grease, mustache, soft cigarette between his lips and his two fingers running over the strings.

Taken from Extraordinary lives


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