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Get Your Sangria Ready, Let’s Talk Gipsy Kings

If you go to southern Spain, you will undoubtedly run into the Roma people. The tour bus driver will probably tell you to watch your wallet around them. But there is more to these gitanos than tossing a baby at you in order to rob you. From music to fashion, Roma culture has had a tremendous impact, (just ask Stevie Nicks). Over the last 30 years, the greatest manifestation of the gitano spirit has been the Gipsy kings.

This iconic band is not from Spain at all, but from Arles, France. They belong to the Spanish gitano branch of the Roma people, (because they Roma around…get it?) The band is made up of two sets of cousins, the Reyes and the Baliardos. The guys grew up immersed in a mix of traditional gypsy music, flamenco, and the troubadour traditions of southern France. They fused this with Afro-Cuban rhythms to create their signature sound.

All 7 members of the band play guitar, creating a unique multi-layered sound. Their singing style is based on the traditional Gypsy singing style called Grito Gitano. It sounds like they are simultaneously crying, singing, and moaning over an upset stomach, but it works. Their music is also very romantic. Listening to it makes you feel like you are in one of those period telenovelas set in colonial Veracruz. As this author’s father once said, “The Gipsy Kings is music to make babies.” Gross, but true. If you can’t close the deal after a few sangrias and a Gipsy Kings CD, then you have zero game.

Their string of classic songs have become part of our collective Spanish consciousness. Their many hits include: Volare, Bamboleo, Djobi Djoba. Their cover of The Eagles Hotel California was featured in the Coen brother’s classic The Big Lebowski, creating a whole new generation of fans. As long as these fools can hold a guitar and sing, they are going to tour all over the world. They are like the Rolling Stones, except they don’t look like cartoon witches.

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