With a musical career spanning two decades, the Gipsy Kings have successfully managed to bring world music into the mainstream arena. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Nicolas Reyes (pictured above), tells Emirates Business about the meteoric rise of the Gipsy Kings and why they are probably one of the few bands that has stuck together through the years.
What did the members of the Gipsy Kings give each other for Christmas?
—We concentrate on our families. Our children and grandchildren are very important to us. For us it is all about our family and that is Christmas for us.
Very few bands have been able to make traditional or world music so successful in the mainstream pop charts. How did the Gipsy Kings manage to pull off this musical coup?
—The audience decides if you have a musical career or not. We have had such great support from them. There have been artists in the past who produce just one hit and then disappear from the music charts.
We are a band that knows only one thing – to make music. Somehow, that’s enough to make it work for us.
Your records sell all over the world, but you have built up a big following in Iran. Why does your music appeal to a Middle East audience?
—We do not know why any one place is so popular. We have met a lot of Iranian people all over the world but we have never played in Iran. We are happy and fortunate to know that not just Iranians, but a big cross-section off the world loves our music. That is what moves us.
The word ‘gipsy’ has developed negative connotations over recent years and is often dropped in favour of ‘Roma’. Did you ever consider changing the name of the band for political reasons?
—We would never consider changing our name or who we are. We are gipsies and proud of it. We are not involved in politics. We do what we know, that is singing, playing the guitar, producing good rumbas and flamencos to make people dance and have a good time. This is our message and we only concentrate on this.
Some sources cite you as the biggest-ever selling band to come out of France, yet many music fans worldover are oblivious to the fact that you actually come from Montpellier. Do you find this ironic?
—The Baliardos family comes from Montpellier, while we Reyes are from Arles. These cities are in France and we were born in France. It’s true that our grandfathers lived in Spain; we are gipsies so borders don’t confine us. Everywhere we go [if our family is with us] we feel good, but France is home.
The band has been enormously successful, selling more than 18 million albums all across the world over the last 20 years. Given that band members are not known for lavish Rock‘n’Roll lifestyles, what do you spend the money on?
—With the two families in the band and we have a large entourage. At home in France, we always have our families and friends over. We look after our family and cousins who stay home and have little or no resources.
Are you a believer in New Year’s resolutions? What bad habits have you and other band members decided to give up this year?
—We were all smokers and are constantly trying to give that habit up. Half the band are already there. We also want to try and spend more time with our families and balance that with playing for our fans all over the world who we also consider as family. Hopefully we can bring peace and good times to the world we play in.
Your fans in the UAE are eagerly waiting for your New Year’s Eve concert. What do you have in store for us?
—We were sent some pictures of the venue in Dubai and it looks fabulous. We may spring some surprises during the show, but it is always up to our fans, the more they keep us excited and have a good time, the more we give back to them.
The band is back in the studios and touring again. Will 2008 be the year of a Gipsy Kings revival?
—Revival, no. But we complete 20 years of touring in 2008 and we are very glad to celebrate this anniversary with you in Dubai. In 2008, our fans can expect a new record with something special to mark this anniversary.
Lead singer and guitarist, Gipsy Kings
Nicolas Reyes is the son of famed flamenco singer José Reyes. Nicolas and his bandmates: his four brothers Canut, Paul, Andre and Patchai, as well as cousins Diego, Paco and Tonino Baliardo, all descend from gipsy settlements in Arles and Montpelier in the south of France. Nicolas started the band in Arles during the 1970s when he teamed up with Andre and Tonino. The group played flamenco music punctuated by Nicolas’ exceptional voice. The band gained wider recognition in 1986 after visionary producer Claude Martinez saw they had the makings of a world-class band. Gipsy Kings will perform at Al Sahra Desert Resort on New Year’s Eve and on January 1. For more information, call: 04 295 8510
‘We are gipsies, so borders don’t confine us’