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Gilles Boujo

Guitarist, singer



Photo credit: ©Adrien Quevauviller

Born in Israel in 1959 to a Moroccan father and a Belgian-Polish mother, Gilles Boujo grew up in Brussels where, in the small family apartment, the music carried by his parents' singles brought the whole family joy: Israeli songs brought back from the country, but also Mouloudji, Reggiani, Bécaud, Les Compagnons de la chanson, Montand, Gréco, Brel, Ferré... The arrival of the small black and white screen has been an enchantment: His mother introduced him to musicals through the music of Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Hammerstein & Rodgers... to the rhythmic and fascinating choreographies of Cyd Charisse, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and the charming voices of Judy Garland, Doris Day, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

His older brother used to work a few days a week after school in a record shop where he was coming back with piles of 33 and 45 rpm records, and introduced him to soul and rock labels, with The Temptations (the shock at the age of 13, in 1972 with Papa was a Rolling stone!), Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Jackson Five etc. and rock in all its forms, the Beatles, Genesis with Peter Gabriel, Yes and the incredible Steve Howe on guitar, Pink Floyd, psychedelic with the album Ummagumma, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, followed by legendary concerts (the shock at age 15: Led Zeppelin at Forest National!), The Sparks, Rainbow, Alex Harvey Sensational Band from Glasgow, Cat Stevens not yet converted, James Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, Bob Marley, Fela Anikolapo Kuti, Queen, Eric Clapton with Muddy Waters as an opening act !.. then came the punk and New Wave wave (many trips to London): The Clash, Talking Heads, The Ramones, The Damned, Television... At the age of 15, Gilles discovered Brazilian music through the record a classmate made him listen to, which was a musical revelation: the angelic voice of Milton Nascimento, lyrics with a singing musicality he didn’t understand, announced a passion that will reveal itself a few years later. 

He was introduced to classical music, which his mother knew so well from having been a record saleswoman (she already did!) in a shop at the Passage du Lido on the Champs-Elysées.

At the age of 15, after the mystical experience of the Led Zep concert, Gilles asked his father for a guitar which he received. He registered at the music academy where he only stayed a short year. Classical music and especially his technique applied to the instrument did not suit him, for good reason, because he was attracted by rock and folk. Self-taught, he explored the poetic universes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and his colleagues of the moment Crosby, Stills & Nash and then the first power chords that worked well on his classical guitar, whether purists like it or not! A concert of classmates and a second guitar, this one electric, appeared at the family home. A classmate's brother, a guitarist, allowed him to perfect his rock vocabulary, he made his first steps in a band, then a second one and others followed in various registers.

A few trips followed: Australia which was like a dream, a return to his roots in Israel where, during a stay in the kibbutz, a Brazilian meeting with the woman who will become the mother of his children a few years later, a trip to Brazil to marry her, and at the same time, a country, a language that he learned on the spot, a culture with music as rich and diverse as the number of States, and a first guitaristic and rhythmic approach in contact with MPB (Popular Brasileira Music), Bossa Nova, Nordestino reggae, Baião… He learned these musics further with Brazilian musicians based in Brussels and also during two Viva Brasil festivals where he acted as a "fluent Portuguese" driver for living legends such as Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Ney Matogrosso, Rita Lee, Jorge Ben, Marisa Monte, Ivan Lins, João Bosco, Gal Costa...  

Later on, Gilles decided to study jazz and after having taken lessons in music theory and a harmony sketch, he took lessons with wonderful guitarists : Paolo Radoni, Paolo Loveri, Fabien Degryse, Guy Raiff, jazz ensemble lessons with Bruno Castellucci, Nicola Andrioli and he took one more year of guitar lessons with the talented Lorenzo di Maio. Groups and tours followed one another, including funk and r'n'b covers, vintage blues that he learned alongside Werner Braito, the former harmonica player of the Wild Ones and Vaya con Dios.

Very soon, a friend of music theory and early jazz jams contacted him to work with him on Django Reinhardt's repertoire. A virtuoso double bassist with a bow comes to join them and Swing à Jo was born with the aim, at first, of reproducing almost identical versions of the master's standards as well as some more modern and klezmer digressions. He immersed himself in the music of Django, the quintessence of a jazz that is full of energy, melodic to the core and boundlessly inventive. For him, it was also a return to family roots because, before the Holocaust, his mother had an older brother who was passionate about jazz and who went to see Django's concerts in Brussels where he often came and became friends with the brilliant guitarist until he brought him to the family home. Terrible years followed and the grandparents and the jazz-loving uncle were deported and murdered in Auschwitz. With Swing à Jo, it is a tribute to their memory and to his recently deceased mother that he continues to honour through the music of the fantastic guitarist. The trio in its present form consists of Sjoerd Mentens (guitar), Robertino Mihai (double bass) and himself on guitar. 

In 2011, Gilles crossed the path of Philippe Quevauviller, another passionate music lover. From this meeting followed a regular participation of Swing à Jo in the programming developed by Bossa Flor, and he also joined a bossa nova concert with the Bossa Flor Sextet. A collaboration has also begun with Bossa Flor for the project "Brassens dans tous ses états" in which Swing à Jo and Philippe Quevauviller performed three pieces by the great Georges in gypsy jazz.

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