Django Reinhardt's legacy: 6 guitarists on what makes his guitar playing so important, relevant and vital in the 21st century

Django Reinhardt
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The story of Django Reinhardt’s life is as well known as it is legendary. Born in Belgium in 1910 to Manouche Romani parents who wintered there each year, his gadjo (non-Romani) name was Jean, but to everyone in Romani culture he was Django. Surrounded by music from birth, Django was a quick learner, a prodigy, and was playing professionally in Le Bal-Musette by his mid-teens. 

The tragic accident that almost ended his life, let alone his career, is part of guitar folklore. At the age of just 18 he had returned to his caravan after a gig where his wife had prepared a batch of cellophane flowers to sell at market the next day. Django, having knocked a candle over, was confronted by a sudden inferno and suffered terrible burns over his entire left side as he fought to rescue his wife, and himself, from the flames. 

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Denny Ilett

Denny Ilett has been a professional guitarist, bandleader, teacher and writer for nearly 40 years. Specializing in Jazz and Blues, Denny has played all over the world with New Orleans artist Lillian Boutté. Also an experienced teacher, Denny regularly contributes to JTC and Guitarist magazine and is founder of the Electric Lady Big Band, a 16-piece ensemble playing new arrangements of the music of Jimi Hendrix. Denny has also worked with funk maestro Pee Wee Ellis and is the co-founder of Bristol Jazz & Blues festival.