Now, if I’d been D’an, I would have let the group know the facts this way: “I’ve got some bad news. I’m in serious debt to a Hutt and have sold all of you into indentured servitude in the sandy armpit of the galaxy. Once we pay off the debt, we will have to find other gigs [e.g., playing in a cantina in some wretched hive of scum and villainy – ed.] in order to get enough money to get the hell off the planet. Working for the Hutt will be the worst job you will ever have.”
We didn’t talk to him for weeks after the truth made itself known. We played for Jabba and his companions within the palace. (Were they companions? Visitors? Prisoners? We were never sure.)
“Palace.” Please. I’ve seen palaces. I’ve performed for kings. This was no palace.
After a few months we finally accepted that this was our lot in life, and the one bit of good news was we were still the Modal Nodes, which meant we played the best music in the galaxy.
– Excerpt from The Lady has a Jocimer: My Life as a Modal Node, A Memoir by Ickabel G’ont
Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes were an alien band introduced in 1977 in the cantina scene in the original Star Wars. They appeared only briefly—no one would think to give the group or either of their songs proper names until years later—but one of the two songs they played, titled simply “Cantina Band” on the soundtrack album, would become one of the most recognizable pieces of music in an already iconic score.
The characters were eventually named in other Star Wars media and identified as members of the species ‘Bith.’ The genre of music they play was eventually revealed to be ‘Jizz.’ Really.
As for the songs themselves, George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, asked composer John Williams to “imagine several creatures in a future century finding some 1930s Benny Goodman swing band music in a time capsule or under a rock someplace — and how they might attempt to interpret it.” Following this brief, Williams wrote two syncopated pieces and arranged them for trumpet, saxophones, clarinet, a Fender Rhodes piano, a Caribbean steel drum, an ARP synthesizer for the bass and other assorted percussion.
Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1977)
“Cantina Band/Cantina Band #2” (CD single) (1997)
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Oga’s Cantina: R3X’s Playlist #1 (2019)