Django festival will return to Maplewood in May

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Roche Media Relations
Maplewood resident Stephane Wrembel will hold the Django A Gogo Music Festival and Guitar Camp at the Woodland in May.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Stephane Wrembel wants people to know the beauty of Gypsy culture.
“I want people to be exposed to French gypsy culture,” Wrembel said. “To be exposed to the Gypsy life, there is something magical to it. It can’t be explained, you must witness it.”
Wrembel, a jazz guitarist who is French but lives in Maplewood, is the driving force behind the annual Django A Gogo Music Festival and Guitar Camp at The Woodland. The event has been held in Maplewood since 2017 but it began 20 years ago in Brooklyn.
In conjunction with the music festival that takes place May 3-7, Wrembel will release his 17th recording, Django New Orleans, May 5 on vinyl, CD and all streaming platforms.
Wrembel’s band, also named Django New Orleans, will perform twice during the festival; Friday, May 5 at The Woodland in Maplewood, and Saturday, May 6 at The Town Hall in New York City.
“It’s a big, big year for us,” Wrembel said. “We’ve grown really big.”
Wrembel and his colleagues now hold similar events in Los Angeles, Toronto and Quebec with plans for one in Bangalore, India this December.
Django New Orleans pays homage to the legendary guitarist and composer, Django Reinhardt. It blends the traditional sounds of New Orleans, from swing to second lines, with the voices of Sinti jazz guitar.
Django was the Romani nickname for Jean Reinhardt, a French musician who lived from 1910 to 1953. He was a jazz guitarist and composer and one of the first major jazz talents to emerge in Europe.
Wrembel specializes in the style of Reinhardt, who is best known for his original compositions “Bistro Fada” (Midnight in Paris) and “Big Brother” (Vicki Cristina Barcelona).
Wrembel became interested in this type of music when he was 19 after he started hanging around gypsy camps north of Paris where this type of music was played.
“I would spend my whole days with them,” he said..

Stephane Wrembel surrounded by other performers during a 2019 Django a Gogo festival.

Django New Orleans the band made their debut in November of 2021 with eight sold-out shows at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz At Lincoln Center.
“Django New Orleans is a downhome party meets a high-end listening experience, as Stephane organically blends the music of Reinhardt and classic New Orleans repertoire together with just the right amount of understated flash and acoustic funk,” said Jason Olaine, vice president of programming for Jazz At Lincoln.
As the musical director for Django New Orleans, Wrembel has brought together some of the finest jazz musicians in the New York City area including Maplewood resident Scott Kettner on drums.
Other band members include Josh Kaye on rhythm guitar; Joe Boga on trumpet; Adrien Chevalier on violin; Joe Correia on sousaphone; David Langlois on percussion; Nick Driscoll on clarinet and soprano saxophone; and Sarah King on vocals.

Wrembel will hold the Django A Gogo Music Festival and Guitar Camp at the Woodland in May.

Among the people playing in Maplewood will be Simba Baumgartner, who is the grandson of Django.
“He’s an amazing player,” Wrembel said. “He’s a legend in France. We will also have Paulus Schaeffer from Holland. He is a great master, internationally recognized.”
Others expected to play at the festival are Sammy Daussat of France, who has been playing for 35 years; Aurore Voilque, the number one violin player in France; Debi Botos, a 25-year-old Gypsy from Canada; Luanne Homzy, a violinist and composer; Tommy Davy, a guitar expert and historian; and Sam Farthing, who is 20 years old but described as a genius by Wrembel.
“It’s hard to put into words how incredible these guys are,” Wrembel said.
In addition to the concerts at night, the festival includes a violin and guitar camp during the day.
“The goal is 40 guitar and 10 violin students spend five days with masters from Europe. This is complete immersion with the masters. It’s very interactive. Small group classes, workshops,” Wrembel said.
The classes are for anybody at all levels, Wrembel said. “Doesn’t matter what you play, you will learn. It’s not easy to find these masters, they go back to Europe and good luck finding them.”
The camp is 9 to 5 every day, Wednesday through Saturday, and there are concerts Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights in Maplewood and then a final concert at Town Hall on W. 43rd Street in Manhattan on Saturday. The concerts start at 8 p.m.
The events have been a sellout each year with more than 300 people at each concert.
“And of course after the concerts in Maplewood, we go to the pub (St. James Gate) and jam,” Wrembel said.