La Chope des Puces: Temple of Gypsy Jazz – Saint-Ouen, France - Atlas Obscura

La Chope des Puces: Temple of Gypsy Jazz

An iconic and eccentric bar for "Manouche" Jazz music keeps expanding its space—and its influence. 


In the middle of the Rue des Rosiers, half way off the Marche Vernaison and the Marche Paul Bert / Serpette, you might notice a glowing bar neon sign in a folk guitar shape. 

This tiny bar, as humble as it looks, began as and still is the equivalent of Village Vanguard for “Manouche,” or gypsy-style Jazz. “Manouche Jazz” aslo called Gypsy jazz, Gypsy swing or hot club jazz, is a lively sort of jazz/swing combo, with its musical scale based in music from the Roma people. It is believed to have been largely begun by Django Reinhart in Paris in the 1930s. 

The name “gypsy” is itself controversial, based on a now debunked theory that the Roma people hailed originally from Egypt. Recent evidence suggests that the group actually made their way to Europe from northern India. Because the word “gypsy” is so common, some activists advocate owning and reclaiming it; others feel the name carries too many negative connotations. (Regardless, English language speakers should avoid using the word “gyp,” which is a clear racial slur.)

La Chope des Puces remains a mythical venue where, for decades, Manouchist legends like Django Reinhart, often neighbors and customers of the small cafe or “estaminet,” made their name by celebrating gypsy jazz as part the local popular music. With rollicking weekend celebrations in this very bar, the Manouche community that lives in the periphery and visitors to the nearby fleamarket often mix and dance together in this legendary space.

Over the years, they have added a Manouche Jazz School, a guitar workshop and a recording studio in upper floors of the building. Manouche quartets are still swinging there every weekend, giving patrons a glimpse back in time to the pre-war fleamarket party atmosphere. The bar can provide a much-needed break for people exploring the nearby antique shops and markets, allowing a lively place to sit down, get a drink and feed one’s ears.

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Metro Porte de Clignancourt Ligne 4

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November 7, 2012

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