Language, skin colour, religion, habits – only a few of the reasons for confrontation and aggression all over the world. Xenophobia and racism do not cease to form a part of many a person’s every-day life; agressees and aggressors. ‘Not even’ the social media are the proper platform to overcome. Nor is the continuous internationalisation they incorporate. Even on the contrary: egocentrism and protectionism appear to evolve in proper renaissance. No border can be crossed sufficiently often to overcome. Some may face the questions frequently, some may rest in that simple shadow of ignorance.
Countries, cultures, religions, politics, business, and sport – who can credibly claim to be exempt?! Approaches differ widely, no doubt. Backgrounds and history do, too. Self-perception is centred on the ‘self’. And we still talk of disappearing ‘borders’. Disappearances for an economic goal. Diappearances for a geopolitical interest. Disappearances for the self to shuffle ’round – with an aim or without.
Freedom is a grand and (too) popular word; by far not the solution to it all. And what do we? Proclaim a future based on only a tranch of it: its economic scope. Narrow it all down; all so difficult to understand. Just simplify. So much easier then.
“The struggle continues…” – true not only for Marley’s Babylon. Rather the grander prophecy. A common effort to invest; an effort to live that promised ‘change’. – And a culture to create it.
A way of struggling.
Picture: Jonas Burgheim
As one of the virtuoso jazz guitarists, Jean Baptiste ‘Django’ Reinhardt had many particularities. He was born in a caravan in 1910. His mother ‘La belle Laurence’ was a dancer and acrobat in a wandering Sinti group. His father Jean-Eugène Weiss, a musician, left mother and son only few years after. They called him by the nickname of Django – ‘I awaken’. He liked his red socks with the black suit. He loved his pet monkey. And he was about as renown for his pool billiard and gambling as for the musical skill. Faring from Belgium to North Africa he did not visit any school, did not read or write. Things changed with the more permanent residence at the ‘Porte de Choisy’ in the Paris periphery.
It was there that he skillfully learned to play the banjo, violin and guitar. It was there that he earned his first musical acclaim. It was there that he almost lost two fingers of his left hand and his left leg in the flames of a burning caravan. And it was there that he perfected his particular two finger plus thumb technique as a consequence – playing even as a Django ‘in chains’, breaking free.
With the French violinist Stéphane Grappelli he shared the passion for American jazz and swing. And with the Quintette du Hot Club de France they co-founded an innovative eyclusively string jazz band. One of the few European jazz groups with great popularity in most of Europe and the US at the time, they perfected their jazz manouche. Repeatedly being featured by touring masters like Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and their kind.
He has inspired many. Together with Stéphane Grappelli he contributed numerous masterpieces. One of them being the controversial Marseillaise interpretation Echoes of France recorded upon their reunion in London after WW II in 1946. Perceived as ‘offensive’, French authorities decided to censor and ban this piece for ten years. New chains. Maybe he was an outlaw. Reinhardt-inspired title and story line of the 1966 Italian Western film Django seem to suggest the same. They also served as a starting point for Django being ‘unchained’ just recently. Sixty years after his premature death. And almost fourty after he broke loose. All this time his music has prevailed. Just like the Sinti in the Paris outskirts.
Django Reinhardt Unchained (1946)
There has been much acclaim for 28-year-old Gary Clark Jr. from Austin, Texas, before and around his recent first official album release of ‘Blak and Blu’ (released in the US on 22 October 2012). And there is more to this ‘guitar man’ than the news that he has continuously been mentioned with good reason next to giant musical predecessors like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton or Steevie Ray Vaughan. He has performed next to Sheryl Crow, Citizen Cope, Alicia Keys, Damian Marley, and The Roots band leader and drummer Questlove amongst others. He has also had his share of an exposure to the political sphere. Sometimes pro-actively, at times acceptingly, certainly with the necessary blues.
Gary Clark Jr. Day has been celebrated in his hometown on 3 May ever since he was 17 years old and the local mayor introduced it. He has been invited to and applauded the ‘Red, White and Blues’ 21 February 2012 official White House event where he performed next to B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Warren Haynes, Mick Jagger and others in front of a particularly ‘selected’ crowd. While he musically claims that ‘Times Are Changin’, he is also attempting to contribute his own more tangible share to this very change. Playing at the 2011 Black Ball of the Keep A Child Alive foundation – co-founded by Alicia Keys and Leigh Blake to combat HIV/AIDS on the African continent and in India – he helped raise a total of USD 3 million to benefit the foundation’s work. He also played a Sandy relief concert in New York’s Brooklyn Bowl on election day 6 November with monetary, food and goods donations being collected and directed to hurricane victims. In his one-off cinematic appearance he also featured in the movie Honeydripper – a symbiosis of themes which could hardly have been more suitable: civil rights, discrimination and: the blues!