We have all experienced how one can be “moved by music”, as a particular ballad consciously ignites an emotion or occasionally inspires us to rethink our existence and possibly make changes in our own lives. However, how often can we say that we have ever experienced a performance that sonically lifted us up from our seats and summoned us to participate physically? Not referring of course to the typical fist-pounding and moshing found at some events, but more so, the feeling that propels us to want to dance and sense the aspects of a culture.
An event which truly captured the experience was Friday evening at The Colosseum inside Caesars Casino Windsor where the electrifying Gypsy Kings serenaded a highly energized crowd. In record-setting swiftness, aisles turned into ballroom floors as spectators flocked to display their finest Latin-style dance moves among the nearly 5000 in attendance. From opener “Djobi, Djoba” to encore “Bamboleo”, it became increasingly more difficult for even the most reserved fan to not want to ‘Salsa’ and ‘Mambo’ the night away.
The group collectively made up of the Reyes and Baliardo brothers surprisingly originates from Arles and Montpellier, France. Though an odd backdrop for nurturing such a traditional genre of music, these ambassadors of Rumba Catalonia, a pop-oriented version of traditional flamenco music, have graced countless stages before worldwide audiences. Though much of the Gypsy Kings’ music is relatable to many social dances such as the Rumba and Salsa, there is still somewhat of an underlying pop influences present.
Suited with nylon-stringed guitars, the brothers mixed complex strumming, with rhythmic, percussive slapping patterns. A skilled guitarist present that evening would have noticed that both Nicolas and Andre Reyes, both left-handed, performed with right-handed guitars played upside-down. This no doubt a result of growing up in a modest household and not being able to afford one specialized for them. As a result, borrowing or purchasing a standard guitar and playing it the wrong way may have been the only way to learn the instrument.
Also, noticeable was the exceptional lead work from Tonino Baliardo. His blazing finger-picked runs highlighted him as the most talented flamenco player in the group. Having been known for always bringing his guitar to school as a child, he does not know how to read or write music, but developed his style from a lifetime of playing and studying his elders.
With the Gypsy Kings currently exceeding 18 million album sales worldwide, they are recognized as the top-selling musical act in history out of France. Receiving platinum status was their 1995 compilation The Best of the Gypsy Kings, which respectfully remained on the charts for over a year. Their impressive library of twelve studio releases, three compilations and one live recording, supports them as they embark on their U.S./Canadian tour with dates currently scheduled throughout mid-July.
Without cumbersome and often distracting stage effects, the Gypsy Kings are a sight and sound for the soul – a sense of escapism in its most authentic form. With much culture becoming lost with generations passed, it is inspiring to note that Latin music still remains a driving force in today’s unhinged and often unpredictable music industry.