(Photo credit: http://www.heymana.com/ )
London has one venue where the flame of Europe's gipsy jazz tradition burns strongly all year round. It's in Battersea and it's called the Quecumbar.
The team in SW11 are hosting an International Gipsy Swing Guitar Festival from January 17th to January 25th ,with support from Arts Council England, the French Music Bureau and others.
We drew attention in a previous post to the opening gig by Django Reinhardt's young grandson David, but there's another gig which has also caught my imagination. It's by Tcha Limberger,who will be appearing in a trio with his father and Hungarian bassist Vilmos Csikos on January 19th.
Tcha who? Multi-instrumentalist (violin/kaval flute/ guitar/ vocals) Limberger has an extraordinary background. He must be the ultimate one-man embodiment of many of the cultural and linguistic cross-currents, oppositions and contradictions of continental Europe. He has taken his birthright, his multiple cultural hinterlands, and rather than exploring them from one perspective or staying put in one place, has gone out of his way to seek out these varied and contradictory influences. I certainly needed to get out the map to appreciate his exploits.
Limberger is in his early 30's. His mother is Flemish and he and grew up in Bruges (Brugge) in the Flemish part of Belgium. But on the paternal side, there is the inheritance of a strong family gipsy music tradition. His grandfather was violinist Piotto Limberger and his father is guitarist Vivi Limberger who will also be appearing with him on January 19th.
I caught up with him on the telephone last week in the region he and his Hungarian wife and their two small children have called home for the past year and a half, the mainly Hungarian-speaking Kalotaszeg province in Romania. Home, that is, when he's not ...performing in Oudenaarde or Antwerp in Flanders with guitarist/composer Herman Schamp... or in Brussels with Roby Lakatos... or in London or Wales.... or giving masterclasses in Weimar... or accompanying Argentinian contemporary dance in Berlin...or experimenting with Kaval flutes in Bulgaria. (Now you see why a map is needed)
He told me about the musical fascinations which have gripped him. His first leanings as a small child were towards flamenco. As singer and guitarist, he was already performing publicly at the age of 8. At 13 he showed an inclination for contemporary classical music. "At seventeen I grabbed hold of the violin." Inspired by recordings by Hungarian violinist Toki Horvath, and by his own grandfather, he started performing widely. "But at 22 I knew I liked this music, but someone told me it was completely inauthentic. " Which was the cue for Limberfer to head for Budapest and to study with Bela Horvat, who taught him the technique and repertoire of the Hungarian gipsy violin.
Since then he has slotted into a multitude of musical contexts, an has previously visited the UK in 2008 with his Budapest Gypsy Orchestra. Here's a rant: the thought I'm left with after looking at Limberger's story is this: we Londoners, with a teeming multi-cultural city all around us have a clear choice when it comes to Europe: we can either try to understand and appreciate the complexities of it. We can at least get out the map.
Or else we can just bury our heads in the white cliffs of Dover, stand apart, aloof and up ourselves. Dominic Lawson, for example, in the Independent, has written the classic tin-hat piece HERE.....
Follow tihs link for the Gypsy Swing Guitar Festival website.