Gipsy Kings - Because We Are Gypsies

by Francois Mattei


The Lights of Sacromonte

As they enter Grenada, they approach an old Spaniard and ask for a recommendation for a "clean and inexpensive" hotel. The old man is friendly; heís familiar with France, having worked there. They, on the other hand, donít know this city and donít even know where "their" minister is. They hire the man as a guide and pay him in advance for three days. "What weíd like," Chico explains, "is to organize a flamenco party with the local gypsies."

The old man introduces them to the gypsies of Sacromonte. Chico negotiates the wine, the sangria, and the participation of musicians with a family that makes available to him one of the caves where tourists from all over the world come to see the gypsies. After having sought out as much information as possible, they know that the minister will be there sometime during the party. They have time only to go back to the hotel, take a shower, and get dressed before they have to take their places in the cave with the gypsies.

Nicolas and Tonino arenít too crazy about the whole thing. As French gypsies, they feel uncomfortable with the Spanish gypsies. "Theyíre going to scratch our eyes out," Nicolas says. Tonino is suffering from cramps and says heís not in good enough shape to play. Chico drags them to the car, and sticks them inside like slices of pizza. They are more rigid than the cases of their guitars, and have a yellow-green color. And what they see, upon their arrival, one hour before Jack Langís visit, causes them to lose a few inches: when the local people found out that that French gypsy musicians were going to come, everyone jumped at the opportunity to see these strange zebras. Thus, the cave is filled to capacity when Chico and his two comrades expected to find only the small family with whom they had dealt.

Everyone was watching them, with mocking smiles on their lips, sarcasm in their eyes. Itís like being x-rayed in the flickering lights of the candles and of the wood fire. Old people, leaning on their canes, resemble wax figures. Even the children are silent. What a silence! What a crowd! Chico approaches the head of the family with whom heíd recently negotiated. "Tell me, you want to kill us, or what?"

The sangria is ready. They drink a glass, and take out their guitars from their cases. Tonino grabs a chair, sits down and concentrates. And, while a few conversations in low voices resemble the sonorous murmuring in a church, he begins to play softly. Very softly, as if to himself only. Everyone hears the notes in a silence that is, once again, very intense. Itís a silence of suspended breathing. ...

And then, there are the first cries: "Great!", "Arte!", "Eso es!", and two guitarists set their instruments on their knees to accompany Tonino. In the crowd, everyone looks at each other, then at Tonino, everyone becomes animated, they shout, "Listen, listen to this young man." Nicolas feels like a wave is going through him. He opens his shirt collar and begins a fandango, his eyes on Tonino. Chico encourages him, and joins the concert. Voices begin to accompany Nicolas. Old women get up and dance. A young boy starts to dance too. Everyone begins to clap hands. Nicolas and Tonino gather courage, and carry on while barely breathing.

When Jack Lang arrives, with a small escort, the party of gypsies from the Camargue and Andalusia is in full swing in Sacromonte. Nicolas and Tonino are completely absorbed in the music, and the Andalusian gypsies join in with them and encourage them. The French gypsies are insanely happy. Chico has goose pimples. Heíll continue to have goose pimples all night long.

Jack Lang is enchanted with this surprise re-encounter with Chico, Nicolas, and Tonino. The unusual nature of this improvised gypsy get-together doesnít escape him. The fusion between French and Andalusian gypsy musicians has taken place before his eyes, in this cave.

After the party, he invites the visitors from Arles and Montpellier, as well as their Andalusian cousins, to a big restaurant in Grenada, and he says to Chico: "This gypsy mosaic, really, we must do it. ..." An angel passes by, with castanets attached to its wings, and whispers in Chicoís ear: "Si, senor. But where?"

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