Django Reinhardt and Edith Piaf

Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt was a resilient and world-renowned Roma musician. His legacy was in part, created when he was caught in a large fire at a young age. The fire burned the majority of his body, leaving his left hand deformed. Nevertheless, Reinhardt kept playing. He altered his technique to accommodate his deformity, playing using only two fingers on his left hand. Django Reinhardt became one of Europe’s most famous jazz musicians. He was a musician ahead of his time, playing incredible concerts and inspiring many.

Born in a Manush caravan, his father taught him how to play violin and “gypsy banjo.” Later on, Django moved to France to pursue his dreams as a musician. As a Roma musician, he came across difficulties getting gigs because business owners were afraid that he would steal silverware. In addition to that, in French culture, being Roma placed Reinhardt at the bottom of society- below French and African Americans.

 It is rumored that he never learned to read or write, but that his long-time musical partner taught him how to write. Despite all of this, Reinhardt learned how to play the classic 6-string guitar and began playing with famous musicians around 1929. He often gave improv performances, capturing the audience with impressive music that they had never heard before . At the age of 43, he unfortunately passed away due to a stroke .

Edith Piaf was a Roma singer and actress from France who earned worldwide acclaim for her performances. Her mother was a Roma woman and a cabaret singer. Similarly, her Father was Roma and was an acrobat cabaret performer. At three years old, Piaf was infected with a virus that caused her to go blind. Miraculously, she recovered her sight four years later. She grew up in poverty, earning money by singing on the streets. Once she got a bit older, she was able to sing in a club, performing under the nickname “Piaf” meaning “little sparrow” in French .

Edith Piaf

In 1935, Piaf started her musical career and within a few years, she was singing in the large music halls of Paris. Her personal life was full of health concerns and friends who often left her. She was able to channel her personal life of trauma and drama into her music, captivating audiences with passionate songs about love and loss. Sadly, she passed at age 47 from cancer .

During WWII, Nazi Germany was a strong power in Europe. The Roma were among the thousands of people killed in the Holocaust. Piaf was pressured by the Nazis to perform in Germany. She did so, but only when the Nazis agreed to let her sing exclusively in French prison camps. Here, she was able to take pictures with some of the prisoners She used these pictures to forge identity papers and help some people escape. Reinhard on the other hand, was also pressured to preform by the Nazis, but he never did. The Nazis enjoyed Jazz, so Django was spared time in the concentration camp form being Roma .

Edith Piaf’s most famous song- La Vie en Rose

As soon as I notice him

I feel inside of me

My heart beating

Endless nights of love

Bring great happiness

The pain and bothers fade away

Happy, so happy I could die

When he takes me into his arms

He speaks to me softly

And I see life through rose-colored glasses

Pictured: Belgian Jazz guita, France. Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis.

While Django Reinhardt and Edit Piaf were both in Paris, they shared a moment together. To the side is an image of Reinhardt getting his palm read by Piaf. Both of these talented Roma individuals made a great impact on the world, and they are missed by many.

Django Reinhardt and Edith Piaf are two Roma individuals who overcame many obstacles in their life and created something beautiful. Physical deformities, poverty, and Nazi Germany are just a few examples of these obstacles that they encountered. They demonstrated great resilience in their lives, and today they serve as a great image of the Roma people