As in the past, we owe the 21st edition of Djangofolllies to the hard work and dedication of the non-profit association “Friends of Brosella”, also the team behind Brosella Folk & Jazz, Brosella Guitar Fair and Kristal Klaar. The general manager and driving force behind all these events is still the incomparable Henri Vandenberghe.
Who is… Henri Vandenberghe?
It is one thing to appreciate an artist but it is another thing to organise a three-day festival devoted to the same artist with offshoots across the country. It takes that added pinch of madness to engage in such an adventure. It is no coincidence that Djangofolllies is spelled with three l’s!
When, almost 40 years ago, he was working with the youth service of the city of Brussels, Henri Vandenberghe already proved to have that indispensable smidgen of madness: “Brusseleir vè et Leive” (“Brussels native for life”). Meanwhile, his love of music in general and of Django Reinhardt’s music in particular is known far and wide. However, the fact that Djangofolllies came into being, is mainly due to Vandenberghe’s longstanding friendship with a musician from the gipsy scene, namely Koen De Cauter, a man who can safely be regarded as the worthy Flemish successor of Django and who, together with his family, masterfully perpetuates the gipsy swing tradition. He managed to convince Vandenberghe to organise an annual tribute to the famous guitar player who on his own forged an entirely new style of music and never missed an opportunity to make a stop in Brussels during his endless peregrinations, so emblematic of his gypsy lifestyle.
The first edition took place in 1994. In the meantime, Djangofolllies has become a festival over several days in over twenty different locations across the country. We asked Henri Vandenberghe our four usual questions.
... your favourite place in Brussels?
That is unquestionably the Osseghem Park at the foot of the Atomium: a green oasis where we organised the very first edition of Brosella Folk in 1977. Throughout the year, it is a quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of the city but during the festival, called Brosella Folk & Jazz since 1982, it turns into the ultimate meeting place for music lovers of all ages.
… your fondest memory of a concert at the Djangofolllies festival?
It is pretty difficult to pick out one particular moment because I have so many happy memories. Nevertheless, there is a heart-warming event I will never forget: it is the concert of the French trio Opus Swing in the cultural centre of the Riches-Claires on 19 January 2006. The three musicians were on average in their twenties and in the theatre, there was a man who had received a ticket as a present for his 100th birthday. The man had seen Django Reinhardt at work in person at the time. The band congratulated him, telling him he was the living proof that Django’s music keeps people young at heart.
I would like to add another memorable experience. It occurred during a project called The Django Experience when Dick Van der Harst performed Django Reinhardt’s music in the purest Jimi Hendrix style. At one point, someone in the theatre yelled out his dislike. He shouted and called it a scandal, ultimate heresy. Van der Harst then asked the technician to switch on the lights in order to see who was complaining so loudly. He asked the man: “Is it this sound which you so much disapprove of?”. He then took his guitar and stepped it up a notch. As a result, the spectator, frustrated to say the least, left the theatre in a hurry. The funny thing is that just before the end of the gig, there was a little lady who needed to leave in order to catch the last bus. The poor lady scarcely dared to quit the theatre because she was afraid to upset the musicians. She came to me and apologised for her early departure.
Also, another lasting memory which will always stay with me is the performance of La Femme Belge with the late Sam Coenegrachts, taking place at the art school ‘Kunsthumaniora Brussel’ during the Djangofolllies festival.
… the last CD or album you bought for yourself?
‘First Time’ by Kim Versteynen and Tim Finoulst – I went to buy the CD straight after the concert presenting their new album at La Tentation. A great show, perfectly balanced. I believe so many young talents deserve our support anyway, whether in the fields of folk, blues or classical music.
… your favourite quote of the moment?
“The only necessary thing for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Let’s be clear, I did not come up with this quote but I always keep these words at the back of my mind. I fully support the idea. There is no point in complaining about all the things that are going wrong and then do absolutely nothing about it. That is what it takes for evil to succeed. I prefer to take action and roll up my sleeves than constantly moaning about the fact that everything is going wrong. We would do well to start by putting our own house in order before criticising others.