Based on the music of legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt, jazz manouche is a popular genre that emerged during the late twentieth century. This article examines the historical development of jazz manouche in relation to ideologies about ethnoracial identity in France. Jazz manouche is strongly associated with French Manouches, the subgroup of Romanies (“Gypsies”) to which Reinhardt belonged. In the decades following Reinhardt's death in 1953, some Manouches adopted his music as a community practice. Simultaneously, critics, promoters, and activists extolled the putative ethnoracial character of this music, giving rise to the “jazz manouche” label as a cornerstone of both socially conscious and profit-generating strategies. Drawing on analysis of published criticism, archival research, and interviews, I argue that ethnoracial and generic categories can develop symbiotically, each informing and reflecting ideologies about cultural identity and its sonic expressions. Jazz manouche grew out of essentializing notions about Manouche identity, while Manouches have been racialized through reductive narratives about jazz manouche. In this case, an investigation of genre formation can inform understandings of ethnoracial identity and national belonging.
It's French jazz. Why suggest that it's jazz manouche?
Django obviously started it, the whole movement, on account of him being a superstar, being a Gypsy, and then afterwards the Gypsies copied him, and it evolved into that.
It's a category that doesn't correspond to reality. People should say “Django style.”
For me, jazz manouche doesn't exist, in fact. It's a fiction.
[Jazz manouche] must exist because everyone talks about it.1
In the above quotations, speakers address the ontology of “jazz manouche,” a genre originally grounded in the recordings of guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910–53) and invented several decades after his death.2 They represent only a fraction of the musings on the subject that I recorded while interviewing musicians and others involved in the jazz manouche scene in France. Centered on the reproduction of Reinhardt's musical style, the genre is commonly associated with the Manouche subgroup of Romanies (“Gypsies”) to which Reinhardt belonged.3 Manouches are celebrated as bearers of this musical tradition, a practice in which many take pleasure and pride, and one that is also considered part of French national patrimony. Over the past several decades, jazz manouche has been imagined, marketed, and politicized to both the advantage and the detriment of Manouches themselves, who are typically cast as valuable to the French nation only in their musical capacities.4
Taking these present-day positions on the birth of jazz manouche as a cue for historical investigation, this article explores how the genre evolved in tandem with the development of ethnoracial discourses about Manouches in France.5 I argue that ethnoracial and generic categories can develop symbiotically, each informing and reflecting ideologies about cultural identity and its sonic expressions. The coalescence of jazz manouche as a practice and as a genre label depended overwhelmingly on its associations—forged by music industry representatives, critics, historians, audiences, and musicians themselves—with Manouche ethnorace.6 In turn, conceptions of Manouche ethnorace have also been shaped through the discourses and practices of jazz manouche. Examining ideas about jazz manouche and the people who perform it helps to differentiate between ethnoracial imaginaries and the people onto whom those imaginaries are projected.7 Race and ethnicity are constituted through discourse and cultural practice and are used to unite, distinguish, and segregate populations—processes observable in a wide variety of ethnoracialized music genres and exemplified in jazz manouche. To echo the quotations that form this article's epigraph, race, ethnicity, and genre are all simultaneously “fictions” that “necessarily [exist] because everyone talks about [them].”
By tracing how discourse about Reinhardt's musical legacy and his ethnoracial background evolved historically, this article offers new contributions to understandings of genre, identity, and national belonging through music.8 Just as ideologies about race and language use evolve symbiotically,9 so ideologies about race and genre are mutually constitutive and socially contingent. Scholars such as John Frow, David Brackett, Charles L. Briggs and Richard Bauman, Fabian Holt, and Jennifer C. Lena have all explored how genres are continually emergent and contestable, negotiated both in the process of their creation and afterward, and defined in relation to other genres.10 A musical genre takes shape through practice in tandem with discourse about music, often as a result of pressures from the music industry to develop a marketable brand.11 A close examination of the genesis of jazz manouche can reveal the social processes by which the development of generic categories and that of ethnoracial ideologies shape each other.
One fruitful area for exploration of these issues has been jazz scholarship that foregrounds the social and political contexts in which jazz has taken shape. Much recent research in this vein centers on sites outside the United States where jazz has developed both in place-specific ways and as part of transnational musical networks.12 I am interested in the way, as Benjamin Givan observes, “Reinhardt's retrospective redesignation as a practitioner of jazz manouche” might be linked to his “marginaliz[ation] by Americanist jazz narratives” in which jazz manouche is rarely, if ever, acknowledged.13 A number of studies already address Reinhardt's influence on the development of jazz in France,14 and some focus on his life and posthumous legacy.15 With a handful of notable exceptions, including work by Patrick Williams, Alain Antonietto, and Givan,16 no other scholarship thoroughly accounts for the social and economic contexts of the development of jazz manouche. Although jazz manouche may be considered a genre related to but independent of jazz,17 this article aims to advance current research in jazz studies by analyzing how particular conceptions of race and ethnicity are intimately linked to jazz production outside the United States.
Contemporary jazz manouche narratives rely on a compelling and improbably coherent story that begins with Reinhardt's supposed invention of the genre.18 In the 1930s, Reinhardt became Europe's most illustrious jazz musician thanks primarily to his leading role in the Quintette du Hot Club de France and his development of guitar soloing techniques.19 Nearly two decades after his sudden death in 1953, groups of Manouche musicians began performing jazz and jazz-derived styles inspired by his recordings, spawning an intergenerationally transmitted community practice. This practice became popularly known as “jazz manouche” only from around the early 2000s as a result of increasing commercial success. The genre is commonly defined by several factors: a mostly string instrumentation centered on one or more guitars; small-group improvisation; a repertoire consisting of American swing tunes popular in the 1930s and 1940s and recorded by Reinhardt, as well as his own compositions; influences from musette,20 French popular song, bossa nova, and sometimes csárdás; and a percussive rhythm guitar stroke called “la pompe” (the pump).21 Although the genre remains grounded in Reinhardt's recordings, including an emphasis on recreating his improvisational techniques, it has evolved into a practice quite distinct from what he performed during his lifetime.
Despite the fact that Reinhardt considered himself a jazzman, with little, if any, stylistic influence from his Manouche origins,22 critics have tended to project ethnoracial qualities onto his music and persona. These descriptions helped to lay the groundwork for future slippage between Manouche musical production and ideas about Manouche identity that show remarkable continuity from the 1940s through the present day. For example, journalist Michael Dregni recently wrote that the moment Reinhardt recorded a version of “Tiger Rag” in 1934, “so Gypsy jazz was born: a wanderer's music” resulting from the guitarist's “Roma sensibility [that] savoured minor keys and favoured emotional intervals.”23 In addition to linking Romani stereotypes with musical sound, temporal conflations of this kind reflect what Givan calls a “presentist” perspective, as opposed to a “historical” one in which the chronology of Reinhardt's music is understood as distinct from the advent of jazz manouche.24
In fact, jazz manouche is the result of several decades of selective reinterpretation of Reinhardt's work by both amateur and professional musicians, of stylistic influences from the Romani communities that took up his music after his death, and of promotion by nonprofit and governmental organizations as well as the music industry. Particular sociopolitical and economic contexts galvanized the coalescence of jazz manouche, from the pro-Romani identity politics that emerged internationally in the late 1960s and 1970s to the development of a “world music” market in the 1980s and 1990s. Two related processes were especially crucial to the growth of jazz manouche as a community practice in Alsace, the region on which I focus here: the adoption of Reinhardt's music by a West German Sinti musical collective (Musik Deutscher Zigeuner)25 and the promotion of Reinhardt-inspired music by French pro-Romani nonprofits such as the Association pour la promotion des populations d'origine nomade d'Alsace (APPONA) as a means of cultural activism. Both the producer of the Musik Deutscher Zigeuner album series and APPONA's leaders promoted Romani alterity as a positive force: celebrating Romanies for their uniqueness was a way of combating discrimination, proving the value of Romanies to the majority society, and selling records. As such, the work of artists, activists, and entrepreneurs has given rise to a dialectical process in which ethnoracial difference and musical genre are produced.
Changes in French sociopolitical contexts have shaped the way Manouches understand themselves and are understood by others, especially in terms of how ethnoracial difference is valued. France, with its legacy of ostensible color blindness and violently assimilationist policies, is a particularly fraught environment in which to advocate for ethnoracial minorities. Following late nineteenth-century national policy that banned the official recognition of ethnic and racial minorities, French lawmakers classified Romanies on the basis of putatively “nomadic” lifestyles and denied them an array of rights granted to other citizens. Even after several reforms to these laws, Romanies remain among France's most disenfranchised and widely despised populations.26 French Romanies are subject to what Étienne Balibar calls “racism without races,” in which the “dominant theme is not biological heredity but the insurmountability of cultural differences” and “the incompatibility of life-styles and traditions.”27 In this sense, the republican mechanisms that claim to ensure equality among citizens actually render white supremacy normative, reproducing racial inequalities and casting cultural difference as a barrier to inclusion in the nation.28
Romanies have, for centuries, faced similar problems of racialization and exclusion across Europe. The second half of the name “jazz manouche” is an overt appeal to Manouche alterity, echoing a long tradition in which Romanies have been exoticized by western European cultural producers under particular historical circumstances. Numerous scholars have explored how literature, drama, visual art, music, and other media both romanticize and demonize Romanies, contributing significantly to popular stereotypes of Romanies as alluring and dangerous.29 Music is a powerful realm in which ideas about Romani alterity are exploited, as Romanies are often thought to possess inherent abilities for musical expressivity. On the one hand, Romani musical practices have been characterized as critical parts of national identity-construction projects in countries such as Hungary, Russia, and Spain.30 On the other, even when Romani arts are included in conceptions of national expressive cultures, Romanies are also considered pariahs in the countries in which they reside and of which they are usually citizens. The history of jazz manouche reveals how Manouches have been subject to such ambivalent difference-making endeavors. From its precursors to its inception and development, the jazz manouche scene has been a cultural field in which fundamental differences between Manouches and Gadjé—the Romani term for non-Romanies31—are constructed and negotiated.32 As a consequence of strategic ethnoracial branding in the realm of musical performance, ideas about Manouche identity become materialized as commodities while symbolic divisions between Manouches and Gadjé become further entrenched.33 An analysis along Manouche/Gadjo lines exposes both the implausibility and, for many, the imperative of speaking in ethnoracially dichotomous terms.
This article draws primarily on research in public and private archives and on analysis of published critiques of Reinhardt, jazz manouche, and related musical practices. My understanding of these materials has also been deeply shaped by a total of nineteen months of ethnographic research in Alsace and Paris conducted between 2012 and 2018. Supplementing critical appraisals of musical performance with interview excerpts and personal observations has allowed me to provide a holistic assessment of jazz manouche historiography and its contemporary implications. I use the term “jazz manouche” to designate both a discursive category and a specific musical practice, discrepancies between the two notwithstanding. I focus on the development of jazz manouche as a community practice among Alsatian Manouches, though overlapping processes have been observed among Manouches elsewhere in France and in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.34,Jazz manouche also took shape outside of Alsace, within particular communities and in particular places (such as at the Parisian restaurant La Chope des Puces, which dubs itself “the temple of jazz manouche”);35 although these represent important contributions to the genre, I limit my scope to the Alsatian threads of the story. My narrative is necessarily incomplete and fragmented, but it sketches the contours of a specific imaginary relevant to current understandings of ethnoracial politics.
In the pages that follow, I progress from the historical reception of Reinhardt and his cohort to the living history of jazz manouche in contemporary France and globally. The first section examines the racialization of Reinhardt in popular media from the 1940s through the late 1950s, briefly considering the way his music became discursively linked to actual Romani musical collectivities. The following sections describe how West German Sinti took up and transformed Reinhardt's music, leading to its adoption by Alsatian Manouches as a community practice. I then focus on the cultivation of this music by the Alsatian nonprofit APPONA as a means of cultural activism, and the resulting reification of links between Manouche identity and particular forms of musical expression. After discussing how the commodification of jazz manouche solidified its reputation in French popular media, I conclude by further arguing that, for all their contradictions, genre and ethnorace are often mutually contingent and always socially constructed.
There exists no documentary evidence for popular use of the term “jazz manouche,” nor for that of its English equivalent “Gypsy jazz,” until well after Reinhardt's time. According to Givan, “Reinhardt himself had no conception of ‘gypsy jazz,’ and even if he had lived to witness it, he would likely have had little interest in it.”36 In a wide variety of publications, however, Reinhardt is credited with being the “founder” of jazz manouche, with the possible implication that his music was understood to be ethnoracially inflected during his lifetime. Even Alain Antonietto and Patrick Williams, the two most reputable French scholars of jazz manouche, misleadingly titled a coauthored article of 1985 “50 Years of Gypsy Jazz,” suggesting that the genre had existed since Reinhardt's first major successes in 1935 (though this was likely meant to be tongue-in-cheek).37 In contrast, guitarist Matelo Ferret, who knew Reinhardt from the early 1930s, once claimed, “People say Django plays Gypsy style. Django doesn't play Gypsy style. He plays a style that's only his.”38 In part because Reinhardt was notoriously averse to giving interviews, his own opinions on the possible Manouche character of his work remain mostly undocumented.39 Additionally, most of what is known about Reinhardt's personality comes from secondhand sources, many of which describe him as unreliable, errant, obstinate, and child-like (even while, according to some, he carried himself with a royal elegance).40
Attribution of an ethnoracial component to Reinhardt's music tends to result in the conflation of individual creativity and presumed cultural traditions (or even genetics).41 Such conflations color not only narratives about Reinhardt, but also understandings of Manouches more broadly. Historian Elizabeth Vihlen McGregor argues that from the mid-1950s through the 1980s critics “betrayed their own understandings about this ethnic group [Romanies] and their belief that gypsies were not only culturally but also sometimes racially distinct from the French. According to these writers, this difference contributed in large part to Reinhardt's musical talent.”42 Extending McGregor's argument, I would suggest that the attribution of racial elements to both Reinhardt's music and his persona—by musicians, Reinhardt family members, and others in addition to critics—gave rise to flawed narratives about Reinhardt and jazz manouche while shaping subsequent understandings of Manouche alterity. Antonietto writes that racial characterizations of Reinhardt
[deny] the great Manouche (as incidentally they still regularly deny his racial brothers) the faculty to set a goal for oneself and force oneself to make an intensive effort to reach it. Unfit for any personal endeavor as for any collective project, the image of the indolent and irresponsible Tsigane remains alive in our society. Nothing is more wrong. … We have been told ad nauseam that [Reinhardt] was born a musician, and for many this explanation suffices: after all, do not Tsiganes have music “in the blood”? As blacks have rhythm? … We know the refrain of this oblivious racism that attributes to heredity what it denies to the intellect: one is born a Tsigane musician as one is born a hunchback, it's destiny, by Jove!43
Antonietto's frustration with the tendency of many Reinhardt listeners to project racialized qualities onto his music, and to attribute his musicality (and that of other Manouches) to racial determinants, is testament to the pervasiveness of these sentiments.44 “[T]he image of the indolent and irresponsible Tsigane” has suffused much commentary on Reinhardt since the 1930s and well beyond the publication of Antonietto's critique of 1984.
Within ethnoracially inflected narratives of Reinhardt's life lie the roots of jazz manouche. If jazz manouche is so profoundly centered on Reinhardt's music, retrospective projections of ethnoracial qualities onto his musical sound, as well as a focus on his ethnoracial identity more broadly, have contributed significantly to the ethnoracialization of the genre. While several critics have repudiated claims that Reinhardt's ethnorace played a measurable role in his musical style, others—especially those writing well after Reinhardt's death and who contributed to the creation of jazz manouche as a concept—have supported such claims. Furthermore, posthumous emphases on Reinhardt's connections to his Manouche community, as propagated by critics and others in the media industries, set a precedent for the transformation of Reinhardt's work into a Manouche-specific community practice. These retrospectives reinforce present-day popular notions that any personal and aesthetic links between Reinhardt and jazz manouche are a matter of ethnoracial significance. Although Reinhardt is consistently portrayed as a singular genius, his Manouche roots have come to bear strongly on his biography—in the words of leading member of the Hot Club de France Charles Delaunay, Reinhardt was considered both “primitive” and an “artist.”45 I offer the following sketch of Reinhardt's life and musical output together with ethnoracializing appraisals thereof in order to show how ideas about Reinhardt's relationship to his Manouche background directly shaped the decades-long evolution of jazz manouche.46
From an early age, Reinhardt became well versed in the popular musics of his time, learning to play the violin, the banjo, the banjo-guitar, and, eventually, the guitar.47 According to anthropologist Patrick Williams, the Manouche milieu in which Reinhardt was raised had no ethnoracially distinctive musical tradition to begin with.48 Together with Gitans (a Romani subgroup associated with southwestern France and Spain), Manouches started to become prominent performers in the bal-musette scene in the early twentieth century.49 This was the professional environment that Reinhardt entered in his early teens. Musette guitarist and amateur historian Didier Roussin cites several well-known musette performers of the time who were astonished by the young Reinhardt's talent, and credits him with popularizing the use of guitar rather than banjo as the musette accompaniment of choice.50 Reinhardt made his first recording in 1928, accompanying the accordionist Jean Vaissade on the banjo-guitar. In late 1928, just as Reinhardt was acquiring a reputation as a musette player, progressing from small venues to famous ones such as La Java, he was forced to take a break from performing on account of injuries sustained in a caravan fire. Following his convalescence, during which he retrained himself to play guitar with his deformed left hand (the scarring from the fire had rendered his third and fourth fingers virtually unusable, requiring him to rely overwhelmingly on his index finger, middle finger, and thumb), he performed in only the occasional musette gig.51
According to Delaunay, Reinhardt first encountered jazz as a near-religious revelation upon hearing a record by Louis Armstrong in 1930.52 Reinhardt's big break into jazz occurred when Hot Club de France member Pierre Nourry enlisted him and his brother Joseph to perform guitar with the club's ensemble.53 Reinhardt had met violinist Stéphane Grappelli in 1931 while playing in a band under the direction of bassist Louis Vola,54 and in 1934 the Quintette du Hot Club de France (hereinafter the QHCF) was formed with Reinhardt, Grappelli, Joseph Reinhardt, Vola on upright bass, and guitarist Roger Chaput.55
Many of Reinhardt's best-known recordings of the 1930s were made with the QHCF, which performed on and off and with various personnel changes until the late 1940s. The ensemble's first recording session with Odéon in 1934 was deemed by the record company's executives “too modern” for release, but after a successful concert, Ultraphone agreed to release two QHCF records.56 In addition to his work with the QHCF in the prewar period, Reinhardt performed and recorded with other ensembles and musicians in France, among them American musicians Coleman Hawkins, Rex Stewart, and Benny Carter. His career flourished under the Occupation, but it was not until the end of the war that Reinhardt engaged again with musical developments across the Atlantic. He embarked on a US tour with Duke Ellington's orchestra in 1946 and subsequently recorded more prolifically than ever before, drawing on the musical influences he was exposed to in the United States (especially bebop).57 During this postwar period, he played on both electric and acoustic guitar and infrequently as part of an all-string lineup. Reinhardt died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage in 1953 at the age of forty-three.
As a Manouche, Reinhardt inhabited an ambiguous position in the racial politics of mid-twentieth-century France. On the one hand, Romanies were often considered a distinctive racial category in the French popular imagination at this time. Although it was (and continues to be) illegal for the French government to collect statistics about the state's racial, ethnic, and religious demographics, and to enact legislation pertaining specifically to such groups, French lawmakers devised ways of targeting Romanies for discrimination. Legislation passed in 1912 placed onerous restrictions on the rights of a new category of citizens, “nomades,” understood to consist primarily of Romanies. According to anthropologist Martin Olivera, under such legislation “the status of ‘nomad’ was hereditary: children born from ‘nomads’ were automatically classified as ‘nomads’ by the administration until their death, whether they travelled or not.”58 Such legislation arose from putative concerns to “strictly control moving populations, perceived as instigators of instability and crime”59 and did not specify Romani identity explicitly. Yet despite amendments to this legislation, including the redesignation of “nomades” as “Gens du voyage,” to this day “in the French national imagination, the ‘real Gypsy’ is above all a ‘nomad.’”60
On the other hand, Romanies were not always considered as being entirely distinct from white racial identity, at least not to the extent that African-descended peoples were. This was especially apparent in the way jazz critics approached Romani racialization. In mid-twentieth-century France, racial considerations in discourse about jazz were overwhelmingly situated along a black-white binary (although there was no clear consensus as to the relevance of race to musical style or talent).61 Within this binary, Romani racial attributes were identified relationally in terms of whiteness or blackness. It was likely convenient for advocates of French jazz to describe Reinhardt, the most vaunted jazz musician France could lay claim to, as white and thus as a legitimate representative of French ethnonationalism.62
While Reinhardt was sometimes identified as white in jazz publications during his lifetime, by the mid-1940s his Manouche background was often highlighted as an explanation for the allure of his musical style. The writings of Hugues Panassié, a cofounder of the Hot Club de France, reflect this tendency. In identifying Reinhardt as white and Romani, Panassié articulates Reinhardt's racial ambiguity, and that of Romanies more broadly: “Django, one of the rare white jazz musicians comparable to the Negroes, belongs to a race which has remained very primitive, for in truth the gypsies' lives and customs are closer to those of the Negroes than those of the whites.”63 To Panassié, Reinhardt was proof that at least some of the desired “primitive” qualities of jazz did not depend on a performer's African descent, or lack thereof. Reinhardt's expressive capacities were simply mystified as part of his ethnoracial characteristics. Considering that by the 1940s Panassié's mission was to promote what he thought of as “real” jazz—that is, jazz performed in a “hot” style as opposed to “straight,” which he associated with blackness and whiteness respectively—Reinhardt's ostensible similarities to black performers would have rendered him a more plausible “hot” performer than other white musicians.64
A number of writings published during Reinhardt's lifetime make passing mention of his Romani background, such as an Air France promotional magazine from 1948 that identifies him as a “French guitarist of Gypsy origin,”65 and a feature in a 1950 issue of the popular magazine Paris Match that bears the headline “This disabled Gypsy is one of the kings of jazz.”66 Other publications that invoke his Romani identity in more detail tend to portray Romanies as nomadic, free-spirited, marginal, and even primordial.67 In a historical overview of the QHCF published in 1948, prominent Hot Club de France member and Reinhardt biographer Charles Delaunay refers to Reinhardt as an “impenitent nomad.”68 Pierre Bonneau's 1945 biographical portrait of Reinhardt in Jazz Hot magazine states, “Like all the subjects of his race, incapable of settling down but living randomly on the road in traditional roulottes, parking at the gates of cities, we imagine the life of the young Django within errant families, living off the product of good or bad ventures.”69 Jean de Trazegnies, writing in 1945 for the Belgian magazine Jazz, extends Romani qualities to the music and personae of both Reinhardt and (non-Romani) Grappelli:
Musicians who received your talent from the depths of time, Reinhardt, authentic and tanned Tsigane, Grappelli, Tsigane soul and dreamer-adventurer, both magnificent bohemians, I hope that civilization never spoils and corrals you. … Continue to be yourselves in your music, do it only for those of your errant race and for those who know how to understand it, as they understand nature and the healthy bitterness of wild fruits.70
Here, Trazegnies attributes Reinhardt's and Grappelli's musical allure to the former's Manouche “race” and the latter's “Tsigane soul” (suggesting that Grappelli, though not technically belonging to a Romani “race,” shared its supposed behavioral and spiritual traits). Alleged personal characteristics and artistic output are both conflated and essentialized while Romanies are further typified as “errant” and uncivilized. Reinhardt's perceived “tanned” appearance underscores his racialization, also pointing to his ambiguous position in binarized popular understandings of race and jazz in the French imagination.71
Although many critics analyzed Reinhardt's music independently of ethnoracial considerations,72 discursive connections between Reinhardt's ethnoracial origins, his persona, and his music intensified precipitously from the 1950s (after his death). Among the critics who drew the most attention to Reinhardt's background was Delaunay, though he did not explicitly attribute Reinhardt's musical style to his Manouche background. Immediately following Reinhardt's death, Delaunay actually refuted perceived associations between Reinhardt's music and his ethnoracial identity, writing in the June 1953 edition of Jazz Hot,
Some jazz critics have reproached Django for the Tsigane character of his music. Without denying his origins, it seems to us that the connection is, to say the least, fortuitous, and at most motivated by the nature of the instrument. … His taste for the arabesque remained in the purest tradition of artists such as Benny Carter, Barney Bigard, and Eddie South, whom it would be difficult to consider as musicians of Tsigane essence!73
In his 1954 biography of Reinhardt, however, Delaunay resorts to racial stereotypes to explain his eccentric behavior.74 Though at times he treats Reinhardt's idiosyncrasies as entirely his own, he refers numerous times to the “primitive” character of the nomadic “tribe” that gave rise to his personality, characterizing them as a paranoid, superstitious, “backward,” “medieval” people who have “oriental traditions” and a history of stealing children.75 Delaunay speculates that had Reinhardt been raised among Gadjé, had he “opened his mind to the mysteries of a modern civilization, he might have lost his purity and the richness of his gifts for invention,”76 yet rejects the notion that “all his racial brothers are natural musicians” and asserts that Reinhardt's “glory belonged to him alone.”77 Still, he emphasizes Reinhardt's fidelity to his ethnoracial group and his fundamental, enduring Romani character.78 As the most comprehensive biography of Reinhardt to be written by someone who knew him intimately, Delaunay's book has significantly influenced popular understandings of Reinhardt's persona and ethnoracial background, especially in terms of continuities between the two.
Years later, in 1975, Panassié similarly described Reinhardt as “essentially a Gypsy,”79 one who “was what one calls in English a ‘natural’ musician. He was also a ‘primitive,’ in the good sense of the word. He was a Gypsy, and he had Gypsy qualities.”80 It is unclear here whether Panassié still believed at this point, as he had in the 1940s, that Reinhardt's Romani background could be heard in his music. In the same piece, Panassié also says that Reinhardt expressed a strong sense of “solidarity” with his Manouche community, an aspect of his biography that he had not mentioned in writings published while the guitarist was still alive.81
Both Delaunay's and Panassié's accounts point to an important shift in narratives about Reinhardt: while his Manouche background was invoked before and after his death as an influence on his individual character, attention to his relationship with a Manouche collectivity became more pronounced posthumously.82 Perhaps public fascination with his premature death and initiatives to memorialize him galvanized a desire for knowledge about his kin. In addition to the release of Delaunay's book, which detailed Reinhardt's relationships with his immediate and extended family, there was the eight-part serial publication of “La légende de Django Reinhardt” by Yves Salgues in Jazz Magazine in 1957–58. A work of historical fiction, the series makes frequent reference to the behaviors of Reinhardt's “race” or “tribe” and recreates intimate moments between the guitarist and his family members as well as interactions with hordes of his Romani “brothers.” In the final part of the series, Salgues attributes Reinhardt's musicality to racial determinants, writing, “music [and] jazz had brought Django to his race. His race brought Django to music, to jazz. Born like that, not otherwise, he lived like that and not otherwise. Perhaps never before was such a good destiny dedicated to such a powerful atavistic inevitability.”83
The 1958 historical fiction film by Paul Paviot, Django Reinhardt, draws similar connections between Reinhardt's ethnoracial community, his personality, and his music. Much of the film overlays images of Romani caravans and gatherings with a soundtrack of Reinhardt recordings and voiceovers (narrated by Chris Marker) describing Reinhardt's devotion to the Manouche people.84 The final scenes of the film feature clips of Romani children, Reinhardt's brother Joseph, his widow Naguine, and his son Babik passing in and out of their roulottes on the dingy outskirts of Paris, accompanied by the following narration: “Perhaps a legend will develop about the Gypsy who had accepted this incredible adventure to go live in the city, and it will appear as fascinating to young Manouches as to us, Tarzan among monkeys.”85 The narrator opines that “there still remains something else of Django, a certain guitar sound on Babik's fingers,” and that an objective of the film is “to recover, through the memory of Django, and through all that which is Gypsy in us, the rhythm of a life and a freedom that he brought to fruition with the candor and the stubbornness of a gentle beast.”86
This complex aim—to awaken a sense of “life” and “freedom” through a racially inflected homage to Reinhardt's life, his music, and humanity's inner “Gypsy”—invites viewers to understand Reinhardt's legacy as uniting Reinhardt with Manouches, Manouches with each other, and the viewing public with an otherwise disdained population. This was not lost on critic Michel-Claude Jalard, who wrote in a review of the film in 1958,
Django's creation is inseparable from the Tsigane race from which he came, whose sensibility he had, whose spirituality he shared, and for which his art, because of his greatness, represents one of its best chances of communication with the hostile world on whose margins he lives. In sum, it was necessary [for the film] not only to render the work of Django present, but to make [viewers] feel that in recognizing themselves in [the music], they become aware of an entirely misunderstood and scorned people.87
Testimonies provided by Reinhardt's immediate family members after his death have reinforced public understandings of his significance for his community and the significance of his ethnoracial background for his music. In a 1964 episode of the television program Sept jours du monde, Naguine Reinhardt is interviewed about her late husband in the midst of a tightly packed group presumed to be her Manouche family, complete with several musicians performing Reinhardt's famous composition “Nuages.”88 And Babik Reinhardt's foreword to a published collection of Reinhardt-related memorabilia states, “My father was, of course, a giant of the jazz world and all his admirers know that he was Tsigane. But many people do not recognize the enormous effect that being Tsigane had on his music, which, in fact, transcended jazz. … Above all, my father was a Tsigane.”89 In the decades that followed Reinhardt's death, commentaries that drew explicit causal links between his music, his ethnoracial roots, and his broader Romani community (like Babik Reinhardt's homage above) flourished in books, magazines, films, and other media.90 In addition to the French sources addressed here, English-language commentaries to the same effect abound.91 Some of the sources dating from the 1980s and later highlight the fact that jazz manouche remains an important tradition among numerous Manouche communities. Many of them, however, tend to conflate Reinhardt's music with jazz manouche, relying on ethnoracially tinged presumptions that reinforce ahistorical conceptions of Reinhardt's music and its supposed continuity with jazz manouche.92
I have focused primarily on accounts generated in the decade or so following Reinhardt's death in order to demonstrate how the beginnings of such ethnoracializing narratives set a precedent for the emergence of jazz manouche. These narratives would later allow musicians, nonprofit organizations, critics, and others in the music industry to frame Manouches as the natural inheritors of Reinhardt's legacy and to capitalize on the exoticism of Manouche identity in the marketing of jazz manouche. Reinhardt would be exalted as a “hero” for Manouches from both emic and etic perspectives.93 Although Reinhardt's musical style never displayed any discernibly Manouche influences, both Manouche and Gadjo listeners came to retroactively project these influences onto his music, further cementing its putatively ethnoracial character in the popular imagination.94 Reinhardt's musicality is now frequently perceived as a product of, simultaneously, his incomparable genius and his (innate and/or inculcated) Manouche expressivity, eliding any distinction between the artist and his art, a stance that often exhibits the “oblivious racism” once decried by Antonietto.95
Articulating a Collective Practice
The first known reference to an emergent practice based on Reinhardt's music dates only from 1959, when the critic Michel-Claude Jalard published his article on “the Tsigane school of jazz.”96 He writes that “by Tsigane jazz, we mean jazz music created by musicians of the Tsigane race. It is really about a race.”97 After speculating for several paragraphs about what may be particularly “Tsigane” about this “school,” he concludes that
neither the [musical] tradition nor the Tsigane condition [of oppression] imply, in parallel to the rise of black jazz, the advent of a Tsigane jazz. But the one and the other reflect characteristic elements that were Django's to crystallize through his prodigious talent: the Tsigane milieu that manifests such a particular expressivity, the destiny of the Tsiganes that orients them toward an art of improvisation, the conjunction of the one and the other that fixes these musicians on certain instruments, the violin and especially the guitar.98
Jalard's hypothesis that Romanies inherently possess “characteristic elements,” chief among them “expressivity,” links Reinhardt's musical genius to ethnoracially determined factors (“the destiny of the Tsiganes” to improvise on certain instruments). His speculation about Romani “expressivity” is central to his definition of Tsigane jazz, as is the identification of Reinhardt as the catalyst that gave rise to it.
Jalard divides the Tsigane school into two groups: “followers,” who imitate aspects of Reinhardt's music, and “continuers,” who seek to innovate upon the stylistic precedents set by him,99 referring to the groups as representative of “folklore” and “art” respectively.100 Though he demonstrates a clear preference for the latter group, he claims that the two are aesthetically united by their ethnoracial identity:
Django's musical universe is for them a common language because in addition to his art, and through him, they discover an instrumental lyricism that speaks to their own sensibilities. This “ethnic supplement,” if one can say that, means that Django is not only the master of a conception of the guitar … but truly the leader of a Tsigane school of jazz. It explains how [this school] coincides almost exactly with an ethnic group.101
After Reinhardt's death, his guitar accompanists continued to perform his music in and around Paris. Some took inspiration from his late work and developed styles that followed modern jazz trends of the day. Others, such as Matelo Ferret, gravitated more toward swing musette. Although the musicians in Jalard's original “Tsigane school” built on Reinhardt's success and were strongly influenced by him, they branched out in idiosyncratic directions that did not cohere into an independent genre called “jazz manouche.”102
Jalard was one of the earliest critics to speak of a “jazz tsigane,” and the first to publish a detailed treatise arguing that both the essence of Reinhardt's music and that of other Romani musicians were contingent upon ethnoracial belonging. Although the musicians identified by Jalard in his 1959 article did not subsequently form the core of the jazz manouche genre, his writing marked a consequential moment in the linkage between musical style and ethnoracial identity to which future writings on jazz manouche would refer.103 For example, in several articles, social worker and prominent jazz manouche festival organizer Michel Lefort drew on Jalard's article to support his descriptions of the contemporary jazz manouche scene,104 writing that for Manouches in the 1990s, jazz manouche had become “a sign of recognition, internally (between members of the community) and externally (in their representation to the Gadjo world).”105 Other key figures in jazz manouche scholarship and popular media from the 1980s onward, such as Alain Antonietto, François Billard, and Patrick Williams, also refer to Jalard's article as an important discursive turn in the genesis of jazz manouche.106
Ultimately, the jazz manouche genre that would come to be associated with French Romanies would adhere to the imitative, “folkloric” model outlined by Jalard. This genre developed only after the adoption and specialization of QHCF-style jazz by French Manouche communities. Jalard's notion of “jazz tsigane” as an expressive approach to jazz would later give way to a much broader recognition of “jazz manouche” (sometimes also called “jazz tsigane”) as a codified tradition with explicit ties to such communities.
Jazz, Sinti Political Consciousness, and Musik Deutscher Zigeuner
Jazz in a QHCF style might not have become such a widespread familial practice among French Manouches were it not for both the mobility and the religious practices of the families of Jalard's “continuers.” In the 1950s and 1960s, French Manouche and Gitan musicians mingled with their West German Sinti cousins during trips to places such as Lourdes, primarily as part of Christian pilgrimages or conventions.107 A “Tsigane and Gitan gala” organized by the pro-Romani journal Études tsiganes in March 1967 was also an important occasion for West German Sinti musicians to encounter French Manouche and Gitan jazz musicians from Reinhardt's inner circle, in addition to musicians, dancers, acrobats, and animal trainers from various other Romani subgroups.108 In conjunction with the circulation of Reinhardt recordings, jazz inspired by him and the QHCF spread through these encounters as a performance practice among Romani groups beyond Paris.
Among the West German Sinti who participated in the 1960s pilgrimages and performed at the 1967 gala were a violinist and singer named Schnuckenack Reinhardt and his cousins.109 In an interview with Michel Lefort in 1997, the West German Gadjo student-turned-entrepreneur Siegfried Maeker discusses his spearheading of the Musik Deutscher Zigeuner album series, with Schnuckenack as the frontman, beginning in the 1960s.110 Maeker's objectives were both entrepreneurial and political: in developing a new market niche for Sinti music, he aimed to increase the visibility of Sinti cultures and communities. After befriending several Sinti musicians, Maeker organized concerts through which to “document” and showcase the music they played for themselves and had never performed for a general audience.111 This music comprised numerous styles, including those learned from the Polish and Czech Roma whom Schnuckenack had encountered in Nazi concentration camps, as well as jazz inspired by the QHCF and Django's prewar recordings. Maeker emphasizes that although they were familiar with some of Django's music from recordings, West German Sinti desired to learn to play it via personal contact with those who had been close to him. As a result of this “direct” transmission during pilgrimages and other travel opportunities, “Django's music entered the repertoire of German Sinti and became a sort of folkloric music. … They knew all the melodies without knowing where they came from.”112
The more traditional Romani styles remained fundamental to the Musik Deutscher Zigeuner collective (hereinafter MDZ), however, especially given Maeker's vision of “documenting” the familial musical practices of the Sinti he knew. For the purposes of generic categorization, I will call these traditional styles “csárdás,” since the majority of the pieces in question can be stylistically classified as such and are referred to collectively by Manouches and Sinti as “Hungarian” (even though a number exhibit possible influences from other central and eastern European styles). MDZ's sonic signature became not a true fusion but a juxtaposition of csárdás with QHCF-inspired jazz. For example, the first MDZ album (known as Musik Deutschser Zigeuner 1 following the release of subsequent MDZ albums) includes three tunes that are most accurately described as the “friss” (fast) sections of csárdás,113 as well as nine jazz tunes (seven of which are jazz standards recorded by Django and two of which he composed) and two waltzes. The combination of jazz and csárdás could simply mean an alternation between jazz and csárdás within the same piece, such as in the song “Lass maro tschatschepen” (composed and sung by guitarist Häns'che Weiss). The jazz tunes often exhibited distinctive csárdás elements, however, such as heavier, brisker rhythm guitar strokes than one would hear on Django's recordings. Later MDZ albums would exhibit a greater degree of crossover between the styles within pieces, especially in original compositions with sung lyrics in Romani. The principal distinction between the jazz and csárdás repertoires is rhythmic: the jazz pieces swing using the QHCF-associated pompe technique on the rhythm guitar, whereas the csárdás pieces are played straight, usually in an offbeat-dominant 2/4. Waltzes are more closely affiliated with the jazz repertoire, as they come directly from the swing musette tradition represented by Matelo Ferret and others with no discernible influence from any eastern or central European genres. Schnuckenack's violin style remains fairly consistent across the jazz and csárdás repertoire, characterized by fits of scalar and arpeggiated runs that push ahead of the beat with heavy legato bowing, frequent use of intense, consistently paced vibrato, and conspicuous slides and ornamentations, especially trills, among other features.114
Despite MDZ's transformation of jazz into “a sort of folkloric music,” Maeker believed that jazz had the potential to afford far more cultural and social capital to German Sinti than the traditional Romani musics they were familiar with:
Another thing was important to me at the start: Sinti musicians always wanted to put on the little Hungarian folkloric jacket. I said to them, “No, that's operetta, a cliché in the mind of the ordinary German for whom Tsigane music equals Hungarian music, operetta … who thinks that the Tsigane plays for the clientele of good restaurants, something servile.” I told them, “It's better if you earn money without doing that, with a little more pride, with dignity.” And they followed this advice … and felt that it was very well accepted by the public.115
By performing Django's music in addition to the stereotypically “Tsigane” styles with which MDZ musicians were already familiar, the demeaning, metaphorical “little Hungarian folkloric jacket” could be tossed aside. As Maeker suggested, incorporating jazz repertoire allowed the musicians to present themselves as modern, innovative, and respectable.116 Music inspired by Django and the QHCF appeared to offer these Sinti an antidote to degrading stereotypes and greater opportunities to be taken seriously as artists.
This appeal to artistic (and social) legitimacy coincided with the leftist political sentiments of the time, as Maeker recalls: “It was the era of the student revolts of '68 and [these students] invited Sinti musicians [to perform]. It was right in line with their political agenda to defend the rights of minorities.”117 The formation of MDZ was also directly related to a growing Romani rights movement in West Germany, which had begun quietly in 1956 and gained public momentum in the late 1970s.118 As Maeker recounts, “We were ten years before the beginning of the civil rights movement of the Gypsies in Germany. … We were a little avant-garde in a political sense.”119 Maeker was especially concerned with the failure of West German society to adequately recognize that Romanies had been racially targeted for persecution and extermination. Yet his intended audience was not only West German: a promotional article published by Maeker in a French journal in 1969 lists the various West German, Austrian, and Swiss cities in which MDZ had performed and provides short biographies of MDZ musicians, describing the experiences of those who had survived Nazi concentration camps.120 Maeker advertised MDZ's ethnoracial specificity as an asset, promoting the “ancestral tradition” of German Sinti music, whose only outside influence was “that of ‘hot’ jazz, which the glory of Django Reinhardt made popular, from the 1930s onward, among all the musicians of his race.”121
Although MDZ's music rarely communicated any overt political appeals—the major exception being the 1977 recording of “Lass maro tschatschepen” (Romani for “Let's take our rights”)122—it was important to showcase this distinctively Sinti music in the context of pro-Romani political activity. MDZ's unique combination of traditional and (relatively) modern musics allowed them to assert a novel aesthetic conception of Sinti identity, one that reflected both adherence to familial heritage and adaptability to new influences, and that indexed a transnational ethnoracial affiliation with their French Manouche cousins. Maeker and MDZ members self-consciously cultivated this particular performance style not just as a commercially viable strategy or as a genuinely pleasurable musical experience (though it certainly was both), but as a means of drawing attention to the political struggles of German Sinti while articulating a new, relatively cosmopolitan conception of Sinti ethnoracial identity.123
Alsatian Manouches and the Discovery of Django
Several of my Alsatian Manouche interlocutors have told me that Django Reinhardt's music was not well received by many Manouches during his lifetime and for some years after his death. At least, Manouches at this time were reportedly not eager to listen to it in group settings, let alone reproduce it as a community practice; jazz was deemed too “modern” for their tastes. Alsatian Manouche accordionist Marcel Loeffler remembered that, growing up in the 1970s, he was told by older members of his family that they liked Django, “but at the same time, we knew that it wasn't their preferred music. For them, Tsigane music was the music of eastern Europe, that came from Hungary.”124 This included recordings by “Yoska Nemeth, Georges Boulanger, great violinists like that. They played csárdás, ‘Dark Eyes.’ Violins to make you cry.”125 In part because Alsatian Manouches were already fond of such music, typically performed by violinists whose techniques and repertoires resembled those of Schnuckenack Reinhardt, MDZ's generic amalgam provided a model and an entry point for these Manouches' exploration of jazz performance.126
Alsatian Manouches experienced a revelation of sorts when they first heard Schnuckenack and his quintet at a performance near Strasbourg in December 1970. In an article on the history of music among Alsatian Manouches, Patrick Andresz, a history teacher and guitarist intimately connected with the Alsatian jazz manouche scene, describes the concert:
On stage, Schnuckenack, bursting with charisma, sings and plays violin. The solo guitarist is the young virtuoso Häns'che Weiss, while the bassist, Hojok Merstein, will be the pillar of the quintet in the years to come. It is the first time that an orchestra composed of Sinti musicians takes to the stage in Alsace. … These German Manouche musicians have just unveiled a new horizon. In Alsace, the shake-up is going to be important.127
In personal conversations with me, Andresz has gesturally described the reaction of the numerous Manouches in the audience as lifting off their seats in astonishment. He writes that the first Alsatian Manouches to publicly perform Django's music were a guitarist named Poro Reinhardt and his family members, who performed in a Strasbourg café in the early 1970s; their success was confined to this venue, however, and they left no recordings, so the birth of this practice in Alsace remains sonically undocumented.128
In an interview with me, Mandino Reinhardt, one of the most celebrated Manouche guitarists in Alsace, recalled taking up the guitar right around this point of transition, as a teenager in the early 1970s: “When I was fifteen, in the heart of the [Strasbourg] neighborhood where we lived … one day, [the chaplain] Marcel Daval brought with him the sons of Piton Reinhardt, who was Django's cousin, and they played so wonderfully that I decided, all of a sudden, that I wanted to do that.”129 Mandino noted that he had already known about Django through his grandfather, who knew a few Django tunes, but that this music did not truly impact Manouches in the region until Schnuckenack and his quintet came to perform: “It's thanks to him that many people today play this music. … Thanks to Schnuckenack, we really get in touch with Django, in his music, and we say to ourselves, ‘What a genius!’”130
As a result of their live performances and recordings and Maeker's intensive promotion, MDZ spurred a “rediscovery” of Django's music as performed by Manouches, inspiring some to proclaim, “We have our own music!”131 Alsatian Manouches began to see and hear themselves in the music of MDZ and to develop associations between their musical aesthetics and a sense of ethnoracial belonging. For these Manouches, MDZ recordings were soon supplemented by an influx of reissued Django recordings that enabled musicians to learn his jazz from the original source. Musicians would listen repeatedly to, and imitate, these vinyl records, a process later facilitated by the introduction of cassette tape technology.132 They were primarily concerned with reproducing (and in some cases, simplifying) musical material from the QHCF's pre-1946 recordings. Within a decade of Schnuckenack's first performance in Alsace, a repertoire combining MDZ and Django's music had become both an emblem of ethnic identity and a cultural practice among Alsatian Manouches. Over time, musicians' grounding in their own traditional (so-called “Hungarian”) music and their affinity with MDZ would give way to a much stronger emphasis on QHCF-style jazz, though the significance of MDZ currently persists among (mostly older-generation) Alsatian Manouches.
APPONA's cultural activism
By the time Alsatian Manouches began performing jazz on the MDZ model, an international pan-Romani rights movement had taken shape, the first Romani World Congress taking place in London in 1971.133 In France, although very few Manouches participated in this nationalist movement, local and regional associations formed around the same time to address the needs of Romani populations facing poverty and racial discrimination.134 Also around this time, French nonprofit organizations and pro-Romani publications began to promote jazz as a distinctive Romani performance genre, in addition to other more traditionally recognized Romani musics. Journals such as Monde gitan (published quarterly by the Association Notre-Dame des Gitans, a Catholic organization) and Études tsiganes (an academic and activist journal now edited by the nonprofit Fédération nationale des associations solidaires d'action avec les Tsiganes et les Gens du voyage) printed reviews of French and German Sinti jazz musicians alongside scholarly and advocacy-oriented articles about French Romanies. Maeker's 1969 promotional article for MDZ, which communicated his activist aims in West Germany to a French audience, as well as synopses of Jalard's writings that linked Django's music to French Manouche communities, were among these.135
One nonprofit organization, the Association pour la promotion des populations d'origine nomade d'Alsace, or APPONA, as it was usually called, was a particularly decisive force in the development of jazz manouche in Alsace and beyond.136 Run mainly by Gadjé but with a limited degree of Manouche leadership, APPONA was founded in 1974 following a spate of discriminatory actions, some violent, against several Alsatian Manouche communities. Until its closure in 2002, APPONA undertook a variety of projects aimed at countering anti-Manouche racism and improving the lives of Manouches in Alsace. In addition to facilitating access to adequate housing, education, healthcare, and employment for Manouches, APPONA sought to enhance public opinion of and engagement with Manouches by promoting Manouche arts.137 Music, in particular, was seen as a way of bolstering Manouche self-confidence, building relationships with non-Manouches, mitigating what APPONA called the “ethnocide” of Manouche culture, and developing an economic niche for Manouche performers.138 APPONA organized concerts, festivals, recording projects, and professionalization programs, and even founded its own music school with Mandino Reinhardt as the longtime principal instructor. According to Andresz, APPONA founders were inspired by “the spirit of May '68” and realized that “social action and music could be complementary.”139
The earliest documented cultural promotion project to be spearheaded by APPONA was the tour of a roulotte over two weeks in August 1974. The tour, called “Le Voyage en Roulotte,” took five young Manouche musicians and three chaperones through a handful of Alsatian villages to perform their music in the hopes of generating intercultural dialogue. The culminating performance took place in the Polygone, the Romani-dominated neighborhood of the low-income, ethnically diverse suburb of Neuhof on the southern edge of Strasbourg. Following the tour, APPONA president and founding member Marcel Daval wrote, “Alsace, which has demonstrated time and again a veritable racism toward [Manouches], showed this time that it also had a heart sensitive to their music and their issues. Racism often results from ignorance of the other; this is why it is preferable to show Gadjé the other side of the Gypsy world, before hostilities are unleashed.”140 Another such early endeavor aimed explicitly at Gadjé was the “Tsigane Cultural Week” in 1977, featuring musical performances, film screenings, art exhibitions, and a conference intended to “overcome prejudices” against Manouches. As one Manouche participant explained, “We are proud of our race and would like to make others understand this sentiment.”141 Projects like these sought to mitigate anti-Manouche racism both by emphasizing the common humanity of Manouches and Gadjé and by glorifying Manouche difference as expressed through music. Celebrating Manouches for their Otherness was, unparadoxically, a way of productively folding them into majority society: cultural differentiation, as a marketable asset, could become a resource for economic incorporation.
Other archival materials further demonstrate that APPONA sought to define Manouche ethnorace in opposition to a normative and unmarked Gadjo population.142 APPONA literature frequently makes reference to a Manouche or Tsigane “world,” implicitly characterized as self-contained and alien to Gadjé, existing in or alongside but not of the Gadjo “world.” APPONA's vision was to “integrate” Manouches into majority society in a way that protected certain cultural specificities that the organization deemed worthy of “saving”—namely, expressive practices, language, methods of generating income, and mobile residences. This integration, in turn, would require change within the majority society such that these cultural specificities would be accepted as constituting part of—not contradictions to—the diverse social fabric of Alsace and of France more broadly.
Musical performance was considered an ideal means of achieving integration in these respects. On the one hand, it was a form of skilled labor that, with proper guidance and cultivation, could generate sustainable income and renew a sense of self-sufficiency among Manouches. On the other, it was deemed a universal language, one that would facilitate widespread acceptance of Manouche people into local communities. For these reasons, APPONA privileged music over other Manouche cultural forms in the fight against ethnocide, as captured in a project proposal in 1997:
The only language that [Tsiganes] have through which to express who they are, to say that they exist, is music. Over the centuries it has been their only means of being recognized, the only means by which all Tsiganes recognize each other. Contrary to what people habitually think, Tsigane society is heterogeneous, there are the same sociological strata as in all societies, poor, middle-class, comfortable, rich. But all, whether sedentary or itinerant, find and recognize themselves in music. During a concert or a festival, when the Tsigane orchestra is on stage, it is the entire Tsigane people that is on stage.143
By unambiguously using musical performance in the service of nonmusical activist objectives, APPONA rendered music “expedient,” in the words of language scholar George Yúdice—“a resource for both sociopolitical and economic amelioration.”144
Music was also regarded as the natural expression of an inalienable Romani essence. In 1978, APPONA member Georges Kautzmann wrote in APPONA promotional materials that Romani music was “free language or the shout of the socialized man” and “more instinctive than interiorized, more natural than civilized.”145 That same year, an anonymous author wrote in the regional newspaper Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace, “Music gives rhythm to the journey of the Gypsy people across its history, as if it were the heart of it.”146 Throughout APPONA's documentation, music—and in particular Romani music—is described as an affective link between the lived present moment and a past otherwise lost to history. The parallels between cultural purity, nature, travel, memory, and music are drawn and redrawn with varying degrees of essentialization. According to this discourse, Manouches are closer to nature than Gadjé and their culture is defined by freedom (both in terms of literal, physical mobility and in more figurative, spiritual terms). In an echo of Jalard's and others' descriptions of Reinhardt and his milieu from the 1950s, these Manouche qualities are presented as finding their purest, most potent manifestation through music. Through its emphasis on the centrality of music to Romani cultural identity, APPONA attempted to override negative stereotypes with another essentializing cultural discourse. Not only was culturally specific music considered a practice worth salvaging for the benefit of all, Manouche or Gadjo. The survival of Manouche culture itself, defined largely by collective musical aptitude and interest, was predicated upon the recognition and continuation of musical performance.
APPONA also promoted music as a vital, structuring element of contemporary Manouche life and culture and as a meaningful practice aside from any expediency it may have offered. In the above-cited newspaper article of 1978, Mandino Reinhardt is quoted as saying, “The music we feel, it's our entire life, and we express our life through music in celebration. Django Reinhardt gave us a lot in allowing us to express our freedom.”147 According to Mandino, jazz inspired by Django is the ultimate means through which to “express” a great deal about a shared Manouche identity. He reiterated this sentiment to me in an interview of 2014, saying that Manouches “feel the [cultural] root through the music of Django. It's primarily for that that we play.”148 The music school he led was a principal way of ensuring intra-community social cohesion—a necessary precondition for outward-facing cultural activism, and an objective in itself—as he told me: “The first step … the first concern for APPONA, was to reintegrate music into Manouche families. First, the familial recognition of this music, its belonging. And then sharing it, opening it up to the outside world, of course.”149
While APPONA initially promoted other musics performed by Manouches, jazz eventually became the preeminent genre. Concert and festival programs from the late 1970s and 1980s advertised performances by local Manouche musicians of “traditional Tzigane music” as well as “jazz,” and sometimes both within the same ensembles. Texts such as the following in APPONA brochures of the 1970s and 1980s presented jazz as a music inherently appropriate to Manouches:
Django Reinhardt, the founder of the [Quintette du] Hot Club de France, the leader of French jazz, a Tsigane, a Sinto, like them. [The Manouches] had learned his tunes and played them trembling, so powerfully did they tell of the life of their people, their freedom. Jazz had its roots in Negro spirituals, prayer, the shout of black slaves in America. Django had also unleashed his own shout, around the 1930s, unsettling traditional Tsigane music, renewing the language of his ancestors, recounting in his own way the long tragedy of his people across history.150
It was (and is) not uncommon for some to draw parallels between the Manouche experience in France and the African American experience in the United States, however dissimilar they have been, and to portray jazz as the natural, historically rooted musical expression of both oppressed racial groups.151 Problematic as these comparisons certainly are, APPONA leaders saw them as a means of articulating the importance of music for Manouches in the struggle for social change.
In a coauthored article of 1989, longtime APPONA employees Marcel Daval and Pierre Hauger list a number of musical genres that the Manouches they worked with “like[d] to listen to and play” in the mid-1980s, including “traditional music for violin of Hungarian inspiration (csárdás) or, more generally, Balkan,” “waltzes,” “classic jazz: swing, middle-jazz, up to certain aspects of bebop and ‘cool’ style,” and “classic Brazilian bossa nova,” among others.152 The authors note that by time of their article's publication, the number and proportion of performing ensembles devoted to jazz had increased conspicuously: “[In 1966,] five out of the nine [Alsatian Manouche] ensembles … played mostly variety music. … By contrast, all [seventeen] current ensembles practice jazz, only three of them incorporating Hungarian-inspired music, and only one variety music.”153
By the 1980s, jazz had also become the music that families transmitted to their children. Manouche guitarists Gigi Loeffler and Billy Weiss once told me that, growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, they listened to Django's recordings with awe. When they heard their family members playing similar music, they realized, “Wow, we can do this, too!”154 For them, Django's music was not confined to mythical recordings, but was something children could actively participate in. The immersive, community aspect of musical transmission among Manouches was an important factor in the younger generation's adoption of jazz. Daval and Hauger write that in the 1980s, the musical practices of typical Gadjo children were “less skillful and rich in potential developments than the jazz on which young Manouches cut their teeth.”155 In part, the recognition of this distinction between the musical practices of Manouches and Gadjé, and of Manouche processes of musical transmission, allowed Manouche communities to build reputations as notable jazz musicians.
This shift toward jazz reflected developments in the actual musical practices of Alsatian Manouches, who had already come to regard Django Reinhardt as a cultural hero and considered their performance of his music to be an important homage. These practices, in turn, were shaped by APPONA's encouragement of QHCF-inspired jazz as the most prestigious ethnoracially specific—and most commercially viable—Alsatian Manouche music.156 Daval and Hauger write that there was a stronger demand among more affluent Gadjo audiences for jazz than for other musics played by Manouches, a demand to which Manouche ensembles adapted.157 Developing the marketability of this music was a chief concern for APPONA, even around the inception of its music school in 1978. Mandino Reinhardt's oral method of instruction was hailed as traditionally Manouche and the “authentic” way to learn jazz, an advantage that Manouches held over Gadjé. Other APPONA members attempted to teach students extramusical skills such as advertising and time management. Through initiatives aimed at professionalization, guided by a neoliberal ethos of entrepreneurialism and self-sufficiency, students would learn to become good performers and to build sustainable careers as musicians.158
One of APPONA's “success stories” is Francky Reinhardt, a Manouche guitarist who currently leads the jazz manouche ensemble Di Mauro Swing. In an interview with me, Francky stated that he had enrolled in the school at age eleven as part of its first cohort, beginning with instruction on rhythm guitar. Early on in his instruction, he still “followed the traditional thing more.”159 When I asked him what he meant by “traditional,” he responded, “Everything that's violin. In the old days, we listened to a lot of csárdás. Especially at birthday parties, you saw that, too. We played live, without microphones.”160 Mandino Reinhardt introduced students to Django compositions such as “Minor Swing,” which Francky enjoyed upon first hearing; he told me, “I still play it now, because I adore it,” and that “[we students] learned slowly, but well.”161 After a few years of studying Django's music with Mandino, and after the gradual adoption of jazz by his own community as well as the rise in popularity of QHCF-style jazz among paying audiences, Francky dedicated the rest of his professional career to what he called throughout our interview “jazz manouche.”
The text of a mid-1980s promotional flyer for Francky's ensemble at that time, Le Quartet Reinhardt, reflects this reorientation toward jazz:
Outside the bounds of formal musical institutions, and under the legendary auspices of Django Reinhardt, Manouches continue to teach each other and to bring their music to life. The Quartet Reinhardt is part of this new generation of guitarists for whom swing and the sense of improvisation are like a native tongue. What they propose to us is a musical itinerary: first, that of the Hot Club of the 1930s, where swing and Parisian popular music took root together, but also an original, unprecedented approach to more recent and diverse musical universes (bossa nova, bebop), as well as remarkable personal compositions.162
By referring to “swing and the sense of improvisation” as “a native tongue,” the text naturalizes jazz as a long-standing Manouche performance practice. While the advertisement focuses on the influence of Django on a “new generation of guitarists,” its reference to other “musical universes,” and to the versatility of these musicians, points to the parameters of a nascent genre. Bossa nova developed after Django's death and, together with several other styles not represented in his recorded work, became incorporated into jazz manouche as it was later conceived.163
A trio version of Francky's ensemble features together with two other ensembles that grew out of the music school in a 1987 APPONA project proposal concerning performances at a Romani music festival in Hungary.164 The authors of the proposal write that while it may seem “problematic” to include jazz musicians at such a festival, this is “justified” if one recognizes that these musicians “best illustrate the current state of the most authentic Manouche musical tradition.”165 They state that jazz manouche “has well and truly become a distinctive genre: for any attentive listener … jazz manouche is not the jazz of European or American Whites, and its particularities tend to bring it closer to other Tsigane musics.”166 The authors argue that, if what matters in the definition of a traditional Romani music is not so much its content as its approach, and if Romani music is characterized by a history of borrowing, jazz manouche must in itself constitute a Manouche tradition. Furthermore, “simply because it fulfills the necessary function of a traditional mode of transmission and musical practice”—oral, immersive, community-based learning—“‘jazz manouche’ … should be considered traditional.”167
It is especially remarkable that this 1987 proposal offers the first evidence in APPONA's archives of the use of “jazz manouche” to refer to a singular genre. By the early 1990s, the term “jazz manouche” had begun to appear frequently in APPONA's promotional materials and in press about the organization, the majority of local Manouche musicians being categorized under this heading.168 APPONA documentation from the 1990s through its official closure in 2002 indicates that not only was “jazz manouche” used to classify what its musicians were performing at the time; it also retrospectively described the QHCF-inspired jazz that they had been performing since the 1970s. Although APPONA was probably not the first to use “jazz manouche” in reference to a specific genre, the term helped APPONA to crystallize the Manouche musical brand it had been developing since the organization's establishment.
Andresz writes that with regard to the material concerns of Alsatian Manouches, “of course, [APPONA] was not the universal panacea. At certain times, Sinti had the impression that their free will had been confiscated by a[n institutional] structure.”169 Regardless of whether the public legitimization of Manouche musical practices resulted in greater respect for Manouche cultural values, it helped to ensure a market for jazz manouche as performed by Manouches. Thanks largely to APPONA's educational and promotional efforts, Alsace remains one of the premier regions in France for Manouche-led jazz manouche production.170 Even those Manouche musicians who did not train in APPONA's music school have benefitted indirectly from the reputation it established. After the dissolution of APPONA in 2002, the school found a home in the municipally run Espace culturel Django Reinhardt, opened in 2010 near Strasbourg's predominantly Manouche Polygone neighborhood.171 Following Mandino Reinhardt's retirement from teaching in 2018, his nephew Dino Mehrstein took over as lead guitar teacher; Dino's brother Francko Mehrstein has been the rhythm guitar teacher there for several years. By training Manouche musicians and by serving as a recognized, legitimate mouthpiece, APPONA cultivated a generation of performers who would become public representatives of Manouche music and, by extension, of Manouche communities.
APPONA was not the only nonprofit organization to advocate for jazz manouche as a specifically Manouche practice. As part of his work as president of the Service d'accueil des Gens du voyage “Les Perrins,” a government-funded agency that provides basic services for Gens du voyage in the Angers metropolitan area, Michel Lefort organized small-scale jazz events throughout the 1980s. Lefort expanded these concerts into the Festival Gipsy Swing, held almost annually from the mid-1990s until his retirement from social work in the mid-2010s.172 Among other genres, this festival promoted jazz manouche musicians from Manouche backgrounds across France, including Alsace. Lefort wrote in 1991 of jazz manouche that “the public dimension of this music—professionals, concerts, recordings—is but a glimmer illuminating access to a musical and human universe that vibrates and warms itself by the thousand fires of an indescribable expressivity.”173 Lefort acted simultaneously as Manouche-serving social worker, as author of numerous articles on Manouche jazz practices (cited several times above), and as jazz manouche festival promoter. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that jazz manouche emerged as a genre closely associated with Manouche communities and Manouche expressivity around the same time that he engaged publicly in all these activities at once.
In addition to Lefort's efforts, APPONA's embrace and promotion of jazz manouche solidified the role of this music as a signifier of Manouche identity, both for Manouches themselves and for the wider public. The adoption of jazz manouche by Alsatian Manouche communities thus has a much more complex history than one of direct transmission from Django Reinhardt to his extended Manouche family. Attention to the wider social context of genre formation elucidates the processes by which ethnoracial identity, and the symbols that represent it, come into being, especially as concerns the roles of ethnoracial outsiders. Gadjé such as Siegfried Maeker, Michel Lefort, numerous members of APPONA, critics, managers, audience members, and others were crucial forces in this respect. Gadjo authors have emphasized the importance of music, and specifically of jazz manouche, as a symbol of Manouche identity: Django Reinhardt is “at the same time unique and other, himself and his people”;174 “this invention [jazz manouche] reproduced more or less literally has become an emblem of identity for Manouches: the music that is their music.”175 In everyday discourse, these kinds of statements are often made under the assumption that ethnoracial “identity” is an a priori concern for those to whom it is ascribed.176 A “concern for the affirmation of [Manouche] identity”177 may have arisen partly from Manouches' own anxieties about the fate of their communities, but this was not a purely internal phenomenon. Gadjé shared and shaped an interest in defining Manouches as a distinctive group, manifested through the cultivation and promotion of particular Manouche musical practices as a form of cultural activism. The concern about “identity” was just as invented as the tradition of jazz manouche itself.
Thanks in part to promotional work by nonprofit organizations, and to the inclusion of Romani musics in a nascent French “world music” industry, the term “jazz manouche” started to gain traction in French media.178 It began to appear in France's major newspapers in the 1970s,179 and from the early 1980s through the 1990s, a number of artists, especially those of Manouche background, advertised their music as “manouche” and variations thereof. Examples include the albums Manouche partie by Jo Privat and Matelo Ferret, Swing 93 by Gypsy Reunion, Gypsy Music from Alsace by Note Manouche, Aimez-vous Brahms by Les Manouches, and Gypsy Guitars by Ensemble la Roue Fleurie, among numerous others. Even so, occurrences of “jazz manouche” and its analogues (various combinations of “jazz”/“swing” and “manouche”/“gitan”/“tsigane”) were rather infrequent in French music publicity and press before the early 2000s.
Around the turn of the millennium, jazz manouche quickly gained popularity with the French public as a genre in its own right. Michel Mercier, a guitarist who worked for over a decade at Universal Music France in Paris, explained the timeline of the genre's explosion to me:
mm: [In the early 2000s,] there was no Gypsy jazz. You would go into the record shop, like FNAC, and there was one record by Moreno, two by Romane, one by Angelo [Debarre], and one by [the] Rosenberg Trio. It was really nothing. And over the years, you could really see the shelf expand. Now you have, I don't know, three hundred references.
sl: And so back then, when it was still very small, where would you find these records, like in what categories?
mm: You had to ask to the merchant. So it was sometimes in world music, sometimes in jazz. But now you have a dedicated shelf, “jazz manouche.” … [From] five records to a hundred and fifty. It took five or six years.180
Other factors in the increase in popularity of jazz manouche included Woody Allen's film Sweet and Lowdown (released in the United States in 1999, and in France as Accords et désaccords in 2000), a fictional account of a swing-era guitarist who idolized Django. There was also the release of Tony Gatlif's film Swing in 2002, which stars Mandino Reinhardt and fellow Manouche guitarist Tchavolo Schmitt in the story of a young Gadjo who discovers the Manouche community of Strasbourg through musical encounters. In the early 2000s, the acclaimed Alsatian Manouche guitarist Biréli Lagrène, who began his career performing jazz manouche as a teenager in the late 1970s and quickly became internationally renowned across several genres, returned to his roots in Reinhardt's music and released the Gypsy Project and Gipsy Project and Friends albums.181 Furthermore, the increased availability of recordings and information provided by improved Internet access bolstered interest in jazz manouche, especially among Gadjé, who learn it as amateurs and develop careers teaching and performing in the genre. Today, Mercier says, “in France, [jazz manouche] has a status. People know what jazz manouche [is]. Even if they don't like it, or they don't know it very well, they know. But ten years ago, they didn't know. It was only for, you know, aficionados.”182
Various publicity materials from the 2000s attest to the popularity of jazz manouche as well as the polyvalence of the term. “Jazz manouche” is used to denote jazz performed in a QHCF style and as a synonym for Reinhardt's music itself. An undated promotional brochure produced by FNAC is titled “Jazz manouche: The Inheritors of Django” and lists twenty-five albums, including six reissues of Reinhardt recordings.183 The rest of the albums listed, including the motion picture soundtrack to Swing, were released between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. This means that the brochure effectively categorizes four decades' worth of music—the aforementioned late twentieth-century period and Reinhardt's recordings from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s, thus spanning seven decades—as jazz manouche. The selection of albums is fairly representative of the most acclaimed jazz manouche stars of the 2000s, including Babik Reinhardt, Angelo Debarre, Mandino Reinhardt, Marcel Loeffler, Biréli Lagrène, Romane, Tchavolo Schmitt, Moreno, and Patrick Saussois, among others. A similarly broad assertion is made in the online publicity for the CD Swing manouche: Anthologie 1933–2003, which describes the release as representing “a panorama of all the Gypsy jazz recordings produced or rereleased by the La Lichère and Frémeaux & Associés labels between 1933 and 2003.”184 A review of the album published in the same place clarifies that the first disc of the collection spans the years 1933 to 1947, while the second begins in 1989 and “present[s] musics more or less influenced by Manouche music and sometimes very little by jazz,” yet all such recordings are still grouped under the heading of “swing manouche.”185 By 2007, jazz manouche was so well established that it could be spoken of as a style to be “enriched” and “enlarged” upon, as on the web page for an album by the ensemble Gadjo Combo.186
As Mercier's account and these marketing materials suggest, the success of a jazz manouche industry correlated with the genre's increased recognition and consumption by a relatively wide audience. Keith Negus identifies this as a process in which “an industry produces culture and culture produces an industry.”187 Negus writes that although the recording industry does not monolithically determine popular musical tastes, the notion of industry producing culture captures “how the music industry shapes the possibilities for creative practice and how this intersects with broader historical, social and cultural processes.”188 Complementarily, he refers to culture producing an industry in order to describe how music production occurs “in relation to broader culture formations and practices that are within neither the control nor the understanding of the company.”189 As I have shown, jazz manouche was not simply a label invented by music industry representatives. It was an extant phenomenon that gained popularity in a national and international marketplace through a dialectic between industry and culture, one whose “possibilities for creative practice” have been shaped, though not determined, by its small- and large-scale commodification. The widespread recognition of jazz manouche is thus due in large part to capitalist demands on cultural production.190
Conclusions: Reckoning with Ethnorace
Although not all French Manouches perform or listen to jazz manouche, and although Manouche musical tastes are necessarily diverse and fluid, many Manouches (especially those in Alsace) consider jazz manouche the most representative music of their communities.191 This remains the case despite a gradual decline in jazz manouche practice within Manouche communities across the nation. Jazz manouche is also an internationally recognized genre under various names: Gypsy jazz, swing manouche, Zigeunerjazz, and Sinti swing, among others. It is performed by amateurs and professionals all over the world, most of whom do not identify as Manouche. Jazz manouche ensembles have been founded on every inhabited continent; in the United States, there are “Hot Clubs” of myriad cities and regions. The genre's popularity peaked in 2010 with the celebration of what would have been Django Reinhardt's one hundredth birthday, complete with festivals, album releases, and other promotional events and campaigns that drew on his cultural cachet. Since 2010, the popularity of jazz manouche has subsided somewhat, though it remains a highly recognizable generic category in France. Today, “jazz manouche” is more likely to evoke a particular set of aesthetic elements than the Manouche communities associated with the term.
And yet, connections between the genre, its progenitor, and its namesake communities remain steadfast and simplified in French (and global) ethnoracial imaginaries. After Reinhardt's death, his ethnoracial background was transformed from a simple fact of his biography to a consequential personal trait, becoming ever more tightly bound to his musical aptitude and expressivity and leading some commentators to generalize about Manouche musicality more broadly. As Manouches began to perform music inspired by Reinhardt and the QHCF, associations between particular musical aesthetics and ethnoracial background were discursively naturalized, flattening out a history of musical transmission, concerted pro-Manouche advocacy, and marketing strategies into an essentialized continuity of inherited taste and talent. Ahistorical correlations between Reinhardt's music and its adoption as a Manouche practice became attractive both for Gadjo consumers of jazz manouche and for Manouche communities themselves.
Numerous Manouche musicians I have spoken with have expressed frustration that, despite their expertise in diverse musical styles, their ethnoracial identity is understood to determine their generic classification. Depending on whether a Manouche musician seeks to avoid or exploit ethnoracial stereotypes, these elisions can be a burden or a blessing. As accordionist Marcel Loeffler told me, “somehow, it's all the better for us [Manouches] that this word [“jazz manouche”] exists now,”192 but many are ambivalent about describing themselves as “jazz manouche” performers. This hesitation (or even refusal) to embrace the “jazz manouche” label reflects an awareness that, despite the apparent financial and political benefits of autoexoticization, using music in the service of cultural activism and ethnoracial branding can ultimately constrain opportunities for those it is supposed to benefit.
This study highlights the need for scholars of music to examine how, why, and for whom particular musics are promoted as representative of marginalized populations. Discourses about ethnoracialized genres, including jazz manouche, often treat minorities as a priori groups, whether in everyday talk, artist publicity, or critical analyses. These discourses reveal, in Rogers Brubaker's words, a “tendency to take discrete, bounded groups as basic constituents of social life, chief protagonists of social conflicts, and fundamental units of social analysis.”193 In particular, activist efforts to champion the dignity of ethnoracial minorities may do just as much to construct minority identities as they do to defend them. While this valorization may offer material and symbolic benefits to the minorities in question, it may also compromise possibilities for individual and communal self-determination. The success of Manouches in the music industry has often depended on their status as Manouches, whatever that might mean to a listening public. In light of such prospects and drawbacks, we must continue to ask who exactly benefits from cultural activist projects, and what the broader ramifications of these projects are for the constituencies they are intended to serve.
This outline of the ethnoracial history of jazz manouche has shown how the genre, as well as racial imaginaries about Manouches, have informed one another since Reinhardt's postwar fame. More broadly, I have shown how genre and ethnoracial identities develop in tandem: both arise as convenient categories into which messy, disjointed histories can be distilled. Though ethnoracial minorities are sometimes portrayed as timeless bearers of tradition, and even as modern-day “noble savages,” the very parameters of any ethnoracial category have long been in flux according to an array of social, cultural, and economic forces. Retrospective appraisals of Reinhardt's music, and the production of music inspired by it, reflect a great deal about the way race and ethnicity have been and continue to be constituted in public spheres, pointing to the contingent and constructed nature of ethnorace globally. By closely looking at, and listening to, how these generic and ethnoracial categories take shape at particular points in time, we may better understand that—to recall this article's epigraph once again—they are “fictions” that “necessarily exist.”
In closing, I would like to highlight another important link between the past and the present concerning French racial politics. Andy Fry writes that “mythologizing France as a land of equality rings hollow these days,” and that “this vision not only proves hard to sustain, it may also have become politically irresponsible.”194 Through his critique of popular historiographies of African American musics in France that perpetuate a myth of racial tolerance, Fry shows that “a paradoxical effect of cosmopolitanism and internationalism is the provincialism and prejudice they generate as counterforce: these phenomena must surely therefore be understood in both polarities in order to grasp their historical significance.”195
Like African-descended performers, Manouche musicians have been celebrated in France for primitivistic reasons and for their creative artistic capacities. At the same time, they have been subjects of xenophobic discrimination. These seemingly contradictory positions are reconciled both through narratives of jazz manouche history and through the logics of ethnoracial commodification. Discourses about music, and about the bodies who produce it, offer a revelatory window onto these webs of ethnoracial ideologies, and the paradoxes thereof. The widespread appeal of ethnoracial exoticism indexes the fraught racial politics of contemporary France, which, as this article shows, has never been a purely black-and-white issue. In a nation in which color blindness is official policy and speaking about race is often equated with racist thinking, analyses of race and racialization become ever more crucial. Such analyses may also influence how race and ethnicity are heard, and constructed, well beyond the borders of a single nation—or a musical genre.
Glossary of Romani-related terms
The nomenclature used for Romani groups can vary widely according to national, linguistic, and other contexts. The following glossary clarifies my use of several terms that appear in this article.196
Gadjo (pl., Gadjé). The Romani term for a non-Romani.
Gitan. A French term used either to refer to a specific subgroup of southwestern French and Spanish Romanies or to designate all Romanies colloquially. In my translations, I preserve “Gitan” in the former case and use “Gypsy” in the latter.
Gypsy. A term used to designate Romanies, often with pejorative connotations. While some Romanies self-identify as “Gypsies,” it is sometimes considered inappropriate for non-Romanies to use the term to refer to Romanies.
Manouches. A subgroup of Romanies who have resided primarily in France since at least the eighteenth century, who self-identify as such, and who may speak, with varying degrees of fluency, the Manouche dialect of the Romani language. Manouches may also self-identify as Sinti, normally referring to themselves as “Manouche” in French-language contexts and as “Sinti” in Romani-language contexts.
Roma. A major branch of Romanies (see “Romanies” below).
Romanies. An ethnoracial group that traces its origins to northwest India and that resides primarily in Europe. I use “Romanies” as a plural noun instead of the more commonly used “Roma” partly to avoid confusion with the French term “Roms,” which usually designates Romani people from eastern Europe. I also use “Romanies” as a way of including Sinti as belonging to the same broadly defined ethnoracial group, since Sinti often regard themselves as related to, but separate from, Roma.
Sinti. A western European Romani subgroup closely related to Manouches. Many Manouche groups (principally those in northern and eastern France, as well as Belgium) consider themselves synonymous with Sinti. Though most German and Dutch Sinti do not identify as Manouche, as the term is specific to Francophone populations, it is generally recognized that Sinti and Manouches belong to roughly the same ethnoracial group.
Tsigane. A French synonym for “Romani.” While in English “Gypsy” is often considered a pejorative term and “Romani” and its variants are generally more respectful and accurate, “Tsigane” is not directly translatable into either of these terms.
Zigeuner. A German term for “Gypsy.” Though it was once widely used among German speakers, it is now considered an inappropriate label for Roma and Sinti, largely on account of its associations with Nazi racial policy.