WHAT IS GYPSYBILLY?
Gypsybilly, created by The Vignatis in 2009, blends English and French vocals with Gypsy orchestration including acoustic guitar, clarinet, accordion and violin, swingin’ drivin’ rockin’ drum beats with modern/vintage instrumentation of electric guitar and upright slap bass as used in Rock-a-Billy. In addition, the Southern twang of honky tonk-esque piano and pedal steel season the overall sound.
Traditional Gypsy music from Eastern Europe contains dark chromatics, use of microtones, glissandi and soulful, theatrical vocals. Many Gypsy musicians do not read music. Rhythm guitar in Gypsy Jazz, originating in France, essentially replaces the drums due to the mobile nature of the Gypsy culture. It uses a special percussive technique of up-down strumming called “La Pompe” emphasized on beats 2 and 4. Gypsybilly tastefully and selectively revises “La Pompe” coining the phrase “La Pompe Reversée” by emphasizing beats 1 and 3 in tandem with the bass as a musical signature expressed in Inherent to Existence and Je ne suis pas comme toi. In Gypsybilly, lead instruments, occasionally stacked harmonically, utilize the chromatic and Gypsy scales often heard by the violin and clarinet in traditional Gypsy music.
The term “billy,” commonly associated with music (ex. Hillbilly, Rockabilly) is derived from an old Scottish expression “billie” meaning “fellow” or “guy.” Rockabilly has a very unique history. In the early 1920s in the American Southwest, Western Swing, an outgrowth of Jazz, was the eclectic creation of Rural, Cowboy, Polka and Folk music blended with a New Orleans “jazzy swing,” Blues and later Bebop consisting of a hot string band with slap bass periodically enhanced by drums, piano and pedal steel. Musicians rarely read music and were primarily self-taught. Similarities between Western Swing and Gypsy Jazz are often noted.
In the American Appalachian Mountains in the 1940s, radio stations were broadcasting music of fiddlers and string bands referred to as Hillbilly music. Later, Western Swing, Hillbilly, Bluegrass and Cowboy music became known as Country music. As in Western Swing, slap bass was used in Hillbilly and Bluegrass and is a critical element in Gypsybilly. The seasonings of the pedal steel and honky tonk-esque piano thrown into the mix add an old-school Country flavor as echoed in Georgia Road. The slap bass used in Western Swing and Hillbilly threw Blues into its mix that later evolved into an early form of Rock n’ Roll now referred to as Rockabilly with Elvis Presley as the most noted artist.
The thumbprint of up-tempo drums of Gypsybilly’s forefathers has been embellished by varying tempi accompanied by slap and intermittent, walking bass. The distinctive, percussive Gypsy guitars escort drums at fast tempi cited in 13.5, mid tempi in The Little Pink Clarinet, a waltz feel in For You, I’d go to the Moon and slow tempi with tremolo and Bolero-esque rhythms in the instrumental Reverie Savoyarde, creating a signature sound.
The common use of reverb and tape delay in the electric instruments of Rockabilly has been implemented in Gypsybilly by the electric guitar, clarinet and primarily reverb on the acoustic rhythm guitar. The unorthodox use and sound of the clarinet in an electric context adds a unique, nostalgic vibe exhibited in Somehow, Someday. Further yet, the 1950s’ added effects augment the natural timbre of the “licorice stick” evident in Inherent to Existence creating an innovative, modern spin to Gypsybilly. Fancy electric rhythm guitar picking and Hot Rod licks remain. The electric lead guitar creates a fresh stamp by conjoining Rockabilly and Gypsy licks. This is displayed in Just for a Day. The acoustic lead guitar is mentored by the revolutionary two-finger technique of Django Reinhardt. Gypsybilly’s choice of standard major and minor chords are infrequent with the preference being the major 6th and minor 6th by the two pompes,…“La Pompe” on beats 2 and 4 and “La Pompe Renversée” on beats 1 and 3. This is utilized in many of the songs with chromatic chord progressions and vocals oftentimes following these progressions as reflected in Build a World of Peace.
The songwriting is fun, lively and meaningful whether it be a Gypsybilly vocal or instrumental. The vocals range from intense to playful, gritty to legit, diatonic to chromatic, delivering lyrical messages on topics from life’s struggles, childhood insecurities, love, travels and world peace. Birth of the Gypsybilly is a musical birth..........a worldwide journey at the dawn of the 21st Century.