In the grip of gypsy strings
The Seven Kings will share their gilded legacy with a Bangkok audience next month, for one night onlyThe song "Bamboleo" - from the Gipsy Kings' 1987 debut album - is
one of the most popular Spanish-language hits in the history of recorded
music. The album itself crowned the charts in the US for 40 weeks and was
equally popular around the world.
The musical torch lit by that success has now been passed to the descendants and relatives of the band members, who perform as the Seven Kings, and they're coming to Bangkok accompanied by two of the original Gipsy Kings.
Founding Gipsy Mario Reyes will be here. Considered by many to be the world's best guitarist, he once performed before 250,000 people in St Peters Square at the behest of the Vatican.
The group will be bringing its grand history and a set list honed over a few decades to the Thailand Cultural Centre on September 12, as part of Bangkok's 14th International Festival of Dance and Music.
The original Gipsy Kings consisted of two sets of brothers: Nicolas, Canut, Paul, Patchai and
Andre Reyes and Tonino, Paco and Diego Baliardo. They were all the offspring of Spanish gypsy families that fled to France to escape Spain's Civil War.
The boys grew up roaming the French south, working harvests and making music.
The Reyes brothers' father Jose sang alongside guitarist Manitas de Plata and did much to popularise flamenco internationally. Charlie Chaplin, Miles Davis and the Spanish artists Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali were among the duo's admirers.
Jose split from Manitas in the 1970s and formed Los Reyes with his teenage sons. His death, while naturally devastating, led to their fortuitous encounter with the Baliardos on one of the annual St Marie de la Mer Gitan pilgrimages. On that warm night, as they passed the guitar, sharing songs and wine, the first chapter of a triumphant musical story was written.
Initially the Reyes and Baliardos busked on the streets of Cannes and played weddings and parties, flavouring flamenco with Western pop and Latin rhythms. When an American admirer told them the name Los Reyes meant "The Kings" in English, they realised they were born to be the Gipsy Kings.
Their self-titled 1987 debut album introduced the world to "rumba Gitano" - the sound of South America's rumba rhythm married to flamenco guitars - and their international smash "Bamboleo". Since then, France's greatest musical export has never stopped touring the globe.
Fast forward a few decades, and the biggest wish of Paul Reyes, the eldest of the Gipsy Kings, was to bring their children together to create the third generation of singers from the family. By the end of 2010 the Seven Kings were making music of their own.
Today the seven talented singers and musicians include two Gipsy Kings: Pablo Reyes and the splendid guitarist and songsmith Mario Reyes. On lead vocals is another dynamic Jose Reyes, a third-generation singer.
Kiki, another member of the band, has worked with artists such as Spain's most famous flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucia, as well as Tomatito Raimundo Amador, Azucar Moreno, Rocio Jurado and many more.
And Keko was born into a gypsy family of artists and songwriters close to the Reyes, becoming a hot performer as well as a professional dancer. Ramuntcho is an outstanding guitarist who's played for many years with the region's most talented gypsy drummer, StephaneLambotte - who has also joined the Seven Kings.
Xavier Padilla, a bassist with a wide range of experience overseas and a touring member and composer with the Gipsy Kings, rounds out the line-up along with the original Gipsy Kings keyboardist, Dominique Droin.
This is not just a group - it's a living songbook of Spanish, rumba and salsa traditions, and a generation-spanning family of virtuosos who are proud torchbearers of gypsy culture.
The festival is sponsored by Bangkok Bank, B Grimm, the Dusit Thani Bangkok, The Nation Group, Nivea, SCG, Singha, Thai Airways International, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Toyota Motor Thailand.
IN THE BLOOD
The Seven Kings and Gypsy Kings perform at 7.30pm on September 12 at the Thailand Cultural Centre.
Tickets are Bt700 to Bt2,800, available at ThaiTicketMajor.
Call (02) 262 3191 or visit www.BangkokFestivals.com.