Back in 1987, the Gipsy Kings made headlines with their self-titled third album, featuring the hits ‘Bamboleo’ and ‘Djobi Djoba’. Their sound, called flamenco rumba, was a vibrant blend of Spanish melodies with salsa and pop, and their aim was to light up the dance floors. Two years later, their uptempo version of the popular 1950s song ‘Volare’ became a worldwide craze. The band has also done a unique rendition of the Eagles anthem ‘Hotel California’.
Though the group was born in France, their parents were actually Spanish gitanos (gypsies) who fled after the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Essentially, the Gipsy Kings belong to the Reyes and Bailardo families. One of the Reyes brothers, Andre Reyes, is now all geared up for his show in Mumbai. Reyes’ father flamenco artiste Jose Reyes, played a major role in the creation of the band, which initially went by the name Los Reyes. “My father has always had very good taste for music and he transmitted it to all of us brothers from our childhood. We can almost say that we were born with a guitar under our arms. Our father taught us to respect the profession and love music,” he says. For the band, the most important thing is the variety and the fusion of styles, says Reyes, “Our music has no borders and right from our early albums, we managed to bring together many cultures and expand our music worldwide.”
Reyes points out that the origin of the flamenco rumba style was created from the mixture of flamenco and Cuban rumba. The language they use is Andalusian Spanish. The flamenco guitar is the main instrument, and handclapping adds to the energy. “The guitar is fundamental for us. In addition, we always incorporate other sounds like piano and drums to give strength to the [performance],” he adds.
The group has had its fair share of critics, who felt they were diluting the original flamenco style. Reyes justifies the band’s music, “The Gipsy Kings style is unique in the world. We do not play ‘pure flamenco’, although we love it and have grown up listening to it. So we’d say it’s in our roots.”
The Gipsy Kings have released 13 studio albums, two live recordings and many compilations, selling 60 million copies worldwide. Their last album Savor Flamenco won the Grammy for Best World Music Album in 2013. The songs ‘Caramelo’, ‘Corazon’ and ‘Fairies Melody’ were regularly played on the radio. They have been nominated eight times in the past for the Grammys. Reyes says winning the Grammy was a very special moment. “It was an inexplicable and very exciting sensation. After so many years of our musical career, receiving such recognition was something very emotional,” he shares.
The Mumbai show will feature special guests Mario Reyes and Chico Castillo. Called ‘Gipsy Kings by Andre Reyes’, the performance is part of the Tour Gipsy Unidos series. Says Reyes, “India is a country that we really wanted to play in. People here are special to us as we think we can transmit our music and connect with them perfectly. We did not hesitate a second.” While Indian audiences are familiar with ‘Volare’ and ‘Bamboleo’, the group has planned several foot-tapping numbers. The venue may well turn into a dance floor.
Gipsy Kings by Andre Reyes will perform at Tata Theatre, NCPA at 7 p.m. on March 9