To be able to follow your dream is something that few people can actually do. To have a passion that can be turned into a profession is a privilege, but it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. It brings joy and happiness but also hours of frustration and self-doubt.
However, if you succeed and catch the dream, it is all worth it and our friend Nuno Marinho did just that!
A qualified lawyer, Nuno gave up advocacy to devote his life to music. He started playing rock grunge and metal guitar when he was 14. Then he heard the likes of Tom Waits and Diana Krall, which opened his eyes to jazz elements, and when a teacher introduced him to the music of Charlie Parker and Miles Davies, he was hooked.
But it was 21 years ago when he first heard Django Reinhardt’s ‘All of Me’ that Nuno suddenly learnt that there was a whole other world out there – the Gypsy Jazz world.
The life of a musician is not all about talent and being on stage. When I first joined the Gypsy Jazz world through my guitarist husband Ray, whilst having dinner with his band Cool Manouche, I was surprised to hear that all musicians practised daily for hours on end. I presumed that as they were already great musicians that they did not have to practise much. They all protested and explained that an athlete has to keep practising to improve and it is the same with a musician.
The time and devotion that a musician has to put in to be able to put on the performance that wows the audience is unparalleled. It is hours of practising the same tunes, understanding the techniques, the melodies, licks, intros, endings, chords etc. There is ear and rhythm training and improvisation and having to memorise hundreds of tunes too.
We first met Nuno in March 2016 when he invited Ray to join him for some gigs in Lisbon. Ray had only been living in Portugal four weeks and thus had an amazing introduction to this great city and its culture. The gesture was later reciprocated when Nuno played with Cool Manouche here in the Algarve.
Nuno’s band is called Manouchka and it is formed with violinist Marian Yanchyk. They host national and international musicians to play with them the jazz music of the Sinti and Roma gypsies that began in the 1930s with Django Reinhardt. Many jazz standards originate from Django’s compositions and Manouchka play regularly in Lisbon, having also performed in New York, Brazil, India and Paris.
Did you know that the Gypsy Jazz community is extremely friendly and welcoming? Festivals held worldwide celebrate their music and afford aspiring and accomplished musicians the opportunity to jam together, meet their idols and learn through workshops given by the great masters of this music genre.
Ray regularly attends the yearly Samois Festival near Paris, two weeks where music can be heard all day and night as players gather together in campsites to jam before and after having heard their heroes in concert. Invariably they get to jam with them too. Strolling through the campsite with a guitar, it is both an inspiring yet humbling experience to join musicians of all ages, especially when you hear the new generations of virtuoso gypsy players.
Nuno recently spent five days in Amsterdam learning from icons such as Stochelo Rosenberg, Jan Kuiper, Digmon Roovers, Paulus Schäfer and Marcel de Groot – an experience he will never forget. As Kuiper said during the workshop, “Music, especially jazz music and improvisation, is an international language and the Django style is specific, but improvisation is done anytime at any moment everywhere in life. Music is the language of your heart.”
The greatest Gypsy Jazz musicians of our time are happy to pass on their music and for players to be able to learn directly from them and join them in playing is an invaluable experience.
Nuno said: “During this whole week, I experienced the most intense Gypsy Jazz time of my life, learning and playing with my Sinti heroes and hanging out with masterminds. It was unforgettable, with unlimited inspiration, powerful motivation and unmovable persistence. After the Five Great Guitars Week, my focus and attention to detail have skyrocketed. Whether I’m practising, teaching, rehearsing, or performing, the hype is always there. There’s no better combination than the knowledge that comes from theory and harmony added to the wisdom of years of experience from the masters.”
Nuno produced a short documentary of his time at the Jazz Camp that represents the spirit of the music of Django Reinhardt, and which can be seen here.
But there are many videos online of both Manouchka and Cool Manouche for anyone interested in hearing these great bands.
Nuno is not only an accomplished musician but is also a Pilates instructor, composer and writer. He has published guitar theory books, jazz articles and interviews and he runs live workshop sessions on guitar playing, song analysis, technique and jazz theory.
After leading the Pat Metheny Tribute band and releasing a couple of jazz-funk-rock CDs – “DNA” and “Letting Go … The World of Make Believe”, both filled with his own compositions that expose his soul and feelings -, Nuno now devotes himself to his passion for Gypsy Jazz.
One of his greatest achievements is the founding of the Festival Django Portugal. It is a momentous task to organise, run and promote a festival and the third edition starts next month with concerts scheduled in Lisbon, Coimbra, Évora, Beja, Elvas, Cascais and Sesimbra.
In June, the festival stars French singer Marion Lenfant-Preus and Sobo Band with their original folkloric compositions; Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis’ Quartet, which incorporates classic and folk music with Gypsy Jazz and from Mexico multi-instrumentalist Eric Kasten with guitarist Carlos Torres.
In July, The Hot Club International Quintet, formed by Nuno in 2016 with his friends from Brazil, Spain, Ukraine and Holland, will perform various swing and jazz concerts with music from each country.
“To run a worldwide business around teaching guitar, plus organising Festival Django Portugal, is a full-time job. It takes hours and hours to create and manage photos, audio and video content, practice the repertoire, and perform live.”
Musician, composer, writer, philosopher and spiritual being. Whether Nuno is practising, teaching, rehearsing or performing, he is doing what he loves and that is what life should be about!
So now you know!
For tickets to Festival Django Portugal, click here
For more information, click here
By Isobel Costa
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Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.