Monday, April 06, 2009

The Invisible King (= Le Roi Invisible)

De Onzichtbare Koning (= Le Roi Invisible) (Nederlands) The Invisible King ( = Le Roi Invisible) (English)

Oscar Alemán: 100 Años "Una Leyenda"

Le Roi Invisible - Gani Jakupi
The Invisible King
A portrait of Oscar Alemán
Hans Koert


In the history of jazz there are a lot of names that are still remembered. Some became icons of Jazz; others are only known by a limited group of admirers. But few were as neglected and forgotten like Oscar Alemán, although he was a legendary guitar player in the 1930s. I discovered Oscar Alemán and his music thanks to some friends in Latin-American music and the documentary about Oscar Alemán: Una vida con swing. ( Gani Jakupi)

Last month we commemorated the fact that Oscar Alemán was born 100 years ago in Machagai in Northern Argentina. This event was celebrated with concerts by Jorgelina Alemán and friends, the granddaughter of Oscar in Machagai and Resistencia and the local authorities named a street and an arts centre to Oscar. In Buenos Aires the Hot Club de Boedo, directed by Waldo Fonseca, gave a concert titled Centenario del Nacimiento de Oscar Alemán ( = The 100th day of birth of Oscar Alemán) in the Asociación de Fomento y Biblioteca Popular General Alvear. In the Doctor Jazz Magazine, the leading Dutch classic jazz magazine, I published (in Dutch) a small biography, titled Oscar Alemán (1909-2009). In this Oscar Aleman blog and the Keep Swinging blog some contribution were published and you can find a survey of these articles about Oscar Alemán: 100 Años "Una Leyenda" here. A poor result to commemorate this great maestro del guitara, master of the guitar, this invisible king. Last month the Kosovo born / Spanish artist Gani Jakupi published a comic book titled Le Roi invisible, subtitled Un portrait d' Oscar Alemán.

© 2009: Gani Jakupi

Last month the Kosovo born / Spanish artist Gani Jakupi published a comic book titled Le Roi invisible, subtitled Un portrait d' Oscar Alemán. This hardbound covered book tells in 64 coloured pages the story of Oscar Alemán.

Gani Jakupi was born 53 years ago in Kosovo, now an in depended country, but then part of Serbia. He settled in Barcelona and became a comic book script writer in 1991 for the comic book series the Matador designed by Hugues Labiano. He developed himself in a many-sided artist being an illustrator, designer, journalist, photographer, writer (of a novel titled Thanksgiving Day, short stories, collections of texts of political analysis), translator, composer and even a jazz musician. Since 2005 he loves to make comics about ignored and forgotten (jazz) musicians and artist, like Tete Montoliu, the blind born Spanish jazz piano player who passed way in the summer of 1997. I heard Tete in concert February 1980 in a concert accompanied by the Trio Intrioduction at The Doelen in Rotterdam. The book is titled Montoliu Plays Tete and contains two CDs with recordings of this great piano player. It would be great to review this book in the Keep Swinging blog later. Other forgotten artists snatched from oblivion are Vinícius de Moraes, a Brazilian poet and composer and journalist, Pete Seeger, an American folk singer and Benny Moré, the great Cuban vocalist. Oscar Alemán, the invisible king, le Roi invisible, is well-matched in this diverse range of artists.

Oscar Alemán (front). In the rear: The Moreira Sextet ( © 2009: Gani Jakupi)

The book opens with a group of journalists and fans waiting for the arrival of Duke Ellington at the Ezeiza airport of Buenos Aires. When he enters the terminal he is introduced to a journalist, Mr. Herrera, who wants to interview him. Un journaliste? Ellington asks, Excellent ! Demande-lui des nouvelles d'Oscar ( = A journalist? Great! Do you have news from Oscar?) and the journalist looks on in amazement and asks: Oscar? Quel Oscar? (= Oscar? Which Oscar?) Oscar Alemán, le guitariste? (= De gitarist Oscar Alemán?) Of course ! LE guitariste. Vous voudrez bien le chercher pour moi, n' est-ce pas? ( = Of course, THE great guitar player. Please, find him for me, would you?). This well known anecdote told about Duke Ellington's admiration for Oscar Alemán is the thread running through the book.

Josephine Baker. - © 2009: Gani Jakupi
In the book the story of Oscar's life is told. About growing up in the streets of Santos (Brasil), his first own earned cavaquinho, his cooperation with Gastão Bueno Lobo, the tour with Harry Fleming's revue Hello Jazz to Europe, his years with Josephine Baker, his meetings with Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington in the 1930s in Paris, the German occupation in Paris and his escape to Argentina; the successes in the dance halls in Buenos Aires with Hernán Oliva.

Duke Ellington had heard Oscar playing and loved to have him in his band for a tour in the US. Josephine didn't want Oscar to leave from her Baker Boys, her band in the revue. Mais ... qu'est-ce que je dis la? (= Listen what I say .......) Ou est-ce que je peux trouver un autre musicien capable de chanter en Francais, Anglais, espagnol, bresilien ... jouer de la guitare, du cavaquinho, des congas, de la pandereta .. et tout instrument de percussion que tu mets devant lui, qui soit noir et tellement chou? (= Where do I find another musician like him, that can sing in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese, can play the guitar, the cavaquingho, the congas and pandeiro and any other percussion instrument you put in front of him, such a dark sweetheart?).
Oscar Alemán (left) and Django Reinhardt - © 2009: Gani Jakupi

The story ends with the most emotional moment in Oscar's life, the suicide of his friend and companion Gastão Bueno Lobo, after Oscar's move to Josephine Baker's band.

In his book, Gani Jakupi, follows the information and stories as told by Hernan Gaffet in his great Oscar Alemán documentary La Vida con Swing; the documentary that stimulated him to make this book. His drawings are realistic, and Gani used old photos that are lef
t from Oscar Alemán's scrap book to stay close to the reality.

A great comic book, an easy accessible biography, well designed, which could reach a new audience for Oscar's musical legacy. It would be great if this book could be released in a Spanish and English translation too.

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