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U.S. Tour 2000

New York, New York
September 12, 2000

Radio City Music Hall

The Program

I don't know if programs were handed out at other performances, but they did at Radio City, the kind you get at a Broadway play. Anyway, FWIW, there was a writeup in it that I thought I'd pass along.


Gipsy Kings - Songs of Love and Life
by John Rhodes

The Gipsy Kings have a long and glorious history of performing for New York City audiences. They have played at Radio City Music Hall no less than 13 times since 1990. In 1997, the last time that they appeared at the Music Hall [incorrect, 1998], they played two sold-out performances to thousands of ecstatic fans. When they return to Radio City on September 12th for the two-night finale to their 13-city tour, their reception is expected to be just as warm and enthusiastic.

The group's eclectic version of Flamenco has had a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers since they played their first U.S. gig here in 1988. You can hear songs pouring out of stores and cars from Van Cortlandt Park to Coney Island and from Greenwich Village to Flushing Meadows. Often, the fans who sing-along witht the most fervor cannot understand more than a few words of the lyrics. But words like "amor" and "vivir" need no translation, and neither does the sincerity and passion of the group's music. With the exception of a few English words and phrases, they sing in Gitane - a combination of Spanish, French, and Catalan, which is the native gypsy language of the Camargue and Andalucia.

Music in Their Blood

Their roots are in the traditional Flamenco and gypsy music of southern Europe, but the Gipsy Kings have successfully integrated so many great musical styles (jazz, latin, rock, and middle-eastern) into their art that they have become the leading representatives of what is now called World Music.

The group is known around the world for their spirited concerts and hit recordings of Bamboleo, Djobi Djoba, Un Amor, and other songs. They have sold more than 13 million albums and their records have gone Gold or Platinum in a dozen countries.

Their new release is ˇVolaré! The Very Best of the Gipsy Kings, a two-album set of their finest recordings. The 37 songs on the collection include four live cuts (Allegria, Sin Ella, Quiero Saber, and La Dona), several instrumentals, and their unique rendition of the Eagle's Hotel California.

The Gipsy Kings is made up primarily of a changing cast of talented singers and guitar players drawn from the closely related Reyes and Baliardo families. Only lead singer Nicolas Reyes and guitar virtuoso Tonino Baliardo have been with the group since they first gained public recognition in 1982, but several others, like Paul Reyes, leave and rejoin as their family and professional duties require. George Reyes and Michael Baliardo are among the newest family members to join, both since 1996.

Stories of The Gypsies

The band's story begins in Provence, France, near the cities of Arles and Montpelier. Though they are the best-selling French musical group in the history of the recording industry, they are truly gypsies of the Camargue. Before WWII, the families traveled in caravans around France and Spain before settling down near the banks of the Rhone.

Through their music and public appearances, the Gipsy Kings have brought recognition and acceptance of Gypsy culture into the mainstream of French life. A beautiful biography of the group, entitled Gipsy Kings - Because We Are Gypsies, was published in 1990. The book's author, Francois Mattei, weaves a compelling account of a landmark festival, organized by Chico Bouchikhi, a founding member of the Gipsy Kings.

An excerpt from a translation of Mattei (the original was written in French) reads: "Sunday evening, at the last session ... under a gypsy sky gleaming with golden stars, the Gipsy Kings transform the giant arena into a furnace. The large family of gypsies from the Camargue mingle in public, arms stretched high, touching the sky with their fingertips, and dance. In a final number that the crowd wishes would never end, thirty guitarists - all cousins or close relatives - join the Reyes and the Baliardos ... Chico has realized his dream: during five days, gypsy culture has reigned in a festival entirely consecrated to itself, in an area neighboring the Camargue, where it had been born."

The next day, according to Mattei, a demonstration by gypsies seeking to obtain a new campground from the city of Nimes ended, like the festival, in perfect agreement. The citizens of Nimes hadn't limited themselves to adopting the Gipsy Kings. They had also "affirmed that the gypsy people and culture are an integral part of the region and of France."

Two PBS television specials contributed to spreading the word about the Gipsy Kings and the rich cultural heritage of their people. Tierra Gitana, which aired in 1996, was filmed in conert and in the Gypsy camps of Arles. The hour-long film was released as home video, but is now out of print. The second program, which aired the following year, captured the excitement of the band's live show at Wolf Trap in Washington, D.C.

Worldwide Recognition

Although the Gipsy Kings were well known in Europe by the end of 1987, it is their success in New York that launched their music into the world orbit. After playing smaller NY clubs like the Sound of Brazil, the group signed with Elektra after a performance at the New Music Festival in July of 1988. Their first U.S. tour in late 1988 was a tremendous success, with sold-out concerts at the Palace in Los Angeles, the Fillmore in San Francisco, and the Ritz in New York - all without the benefit of substantial radio play. Their first U.S. release, Gipsy Kings, which included Bamboleo, reached #1 on Billboard's World Music chart, and went Top 10 in at elast 12 countries.

Since then, the Gipsy Kings have brought the culture, music, and the spirit of the Gypsies to millions of welcoming hearts around the globe. In the words of Joan Baez, written in a letter to the group after hearing them play for the first time: "Thanks for your music. You are good for the soul."