Django, Hand on Fire: The Great Django Reinhardt


By Salva Rubio & Efa, translated by Matt Madden (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-287-8 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-288-5

Publisher NBM’s line of European-originated biographies never fails to delight, and this new oversized luxury hardcover (also available in digital formats) is one of the most engaging yet: skilfully deconstructing – when not actually aiding and adding to – the myths and legends surrounding a top contender for the title of greatest guitar player of all time…

Django, Hand on Fire happily reunites award-winning screenwriter, historian and novelist Salva Rubio (Max; The Photographer of Mauthausen) with animator and illustrator Ricard Fenandez AKA “Efa” (Les Icariades; Rodriguez; L’Âme du Vin; Le Soldat) – whose other collaborations are also beautiful biographies – Monet: Itinerant of Light and the as yet untranslated Degas: La danse del la solitude.

Originally released in France, the translated Django, main de feu is preceded here by an introductory prose appraisal from Thomas Dutronc. This stunning confection of painterly images traces the life of the troubled and unfortunate Roma musician from his fraught birth in a frozen field in Belgium to his second birth and reunion with the true love he threw away and found again…

That natal moment was in 1910 as his father and the other itinerant performers of their tribe were eking out a wage entertaining outworlders.

By 1922, the troupe were resident in Paris’ “Zone”: an enclave for his sort where social outcasts could reside until posh folks found a use for them. The lad was cocky and troublesome, an arrogant illiterate born for mischief but blessed with astounding musical skill…

His life turned around when his mama acquired a six-string banjo for him and all his energies refocussed on mastering music. Soon he was making money – and losing it gambling – even before he was considered a man…

Still an emotional child, he became the star of a professional (adult) band but his actions and attitude lost him many friends and family and ultimately the girl who adored him: Irma AKA Naguine. She faithfully trailed in his wake as producers and record publishers tracked the young man and watched in resignation as he succumbed to the shining blonde glory of artificial flower maker Florine/Bella. Naguine left the Zone entirely when Django and the flower girl wed, but swore to return…

The musician’s meteoric rise stalled only as he awaited his first child’s birth. As they slept in their wagon, it caught fire and although Bella got out, Django was badly burned on his legs and left hand…

How – driven by his mother – he battled back to overcome his life-changing injuries and, by changing his style, mastered another instrument, found undying fame and finally realized where his true love lay is a fabulous – if not strictly accurate – tale to warm the heart and gladden the eyes…

The pictorial paean to persistence and testament to passion is supported by a Bibliography and Creator Biographies plus ‘Django Reinhardt, from mystery to legend… In the light of History’: a fulsome, copiously-illustrated essay detailing the author’s factual choices and path to this particular truth, categorised and examined in ‘A mythical birth’, ‘The Zone’, ‘An interloper in the world of bal-musette’, ‘J’ai deux amours: Naguine and “le jass”’, ‘The Cross of Blood…’, ‘…and the fiery flowers’, ‘Hospital for the Poor’ and ‘Hand on fire’…

Sparkling and inspirational, this is destined for the reading list of every music historian and intrigued dilettante: a beguiling magic window into another world and one you should seek out tout de suite…
© DUPUIS 2020 by Rubio, Efa. All rights reserved.

Django, Hand on Fire: The Great Django Reinhardt will be published on January 18th 2022 and is available for pre-order. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/