Sep 27, 2017
During an interview from his Penngrove home, Gabriel Pirard (photo above), leader of the band Dgiin, indicates the word is from the Koran. They’re angels or genies who can choose to be good or evil. Bad ones are put in a bottle.
Pirard, born in Saudi Arabia in 1978, followed his family to homes in Egypt, Malaysia, and Paraguay, where his dad worked as an engineer of buildings. Arriving in France at age nine, Pirard learned guitar, playing baroque because his parents thought he needed classical training. He didn’t like it. His own listening tastes focused on people like Joan Baez and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
At 19, he moved to America on his own, precipitated by a romantic breakup and his desire to play music. He arrived with a bankroll of $20. He joined Mimi, one of two older sisters who had preceded him here, in creating Dgiin in 2000. She has since left to sing with another local French band, Sono Musette, with a more traditional sound than Dgiin’s music, which Pirard calls “interpretational.”
Dgiin’s shows are celebrations. “It’s a goal I want,” says Pirard, “to be festive and happy, a release from the tensions of life.” Dancers proliferate, due to his wildly relentless, rapid strumming, with excellent rhythms from the bassist and drummer. “When people move to the music it’s a compliment.”
Songs are in English, French, and Spanish, but only Pirard has a background in international music. He looks for musicians who have a good ear and can catch on to his style quickly. At smaller venues, their tryout may be a stage performance to see if they fit and understand the dynamics. All members live in Sonoma County.
Pirard, who uses an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, handles all vocals and writes about 35% of the songs, he says. Jimmy Inciardi, on sax and clarinet adds a dimension, and has been with Dgiin for years. “I like how the sax and voice can harmonize,” Pirard says. “When you play you create an environment. I love that. Part of it is the interaction with the band and the crowd. It’s a special moment where you can separate from everything in life. It’s a bit of a trance.” Dgiin has traveled to Northern California, Oregon, and Arizona, using a trailer that fits the whole crew with instruments, “and the dog” Pirard adds. But these days he sticks close to home where he works part-time at Oliver’s Market, and, when not performing, stays home nights to be with his five-year-old daughter. Pirard, along with Inciardi, also play with the French Oak Gypsy Band, which focuses on swing music and a jazzier sound. This gives Pirard a chance to learn new chords and expand his musical horizons, while also studying music theory.
Dgiin plays regularly throughout the county. Twice voted “Best Band” by the North Bay Bohemian, their array of styles includes Flamenco, Latin, French Café, Reggae, and Funk.
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