“We feel the South of France is the best place in the world, where all our families and friends live,” says Tonino Baliardo, one of the group's founding members, its lead guitarist, co-writer, and producer. “We are happy there, and pleased with everything it offers — the food, the people, the culture, and the weather. It’s our home. We are indeed French, and proud to be.”
Magnifique! But things weren’t always so simple for Gipsy Kings' ancestors. Although the members of the group were born in France, their parents were mostly “
“Our influences are from all over the world,”
Encouraged to pursue music early on — a “baptism of fire,” as Baliardo describes it — the group came together when brothers Nicolas and Andre Reyes, sons of the well-known flamenco artist Jose Reyes, teamed up with their cousins Jacques, Maurice, and Tonino Baliardo and adopted the
Gipsy Kings' 1989 self-titled debut album won them an immediate following at home and abroad, eventually extending their success to the U.S., where the album spent 40 weeks ensconced in the pop charts. Various soundtrack contributions and collaborations with such A-list artists as Joan Baez and Ziggy Marley helped further assure their stardom.
“We were full of energy and out to make our place in the world,”
It’s paid off. Their audiences are a diverse mix, people drawn by the band’s heritage and their creative musical brew. “When we first started [as Los Reyes], there were other musicians and creative people who were always interested in our gypsy heritage and culture. Artists like Charlie Chaplain, Picasso, and Bridget Bardot had us at their parties playing for their guests. It just evolved from there. So now, we get a great mix of young and old, curious listeners, and hardcore fans who are all interested in what we are doing.”
Baliardo says the band does plenty of
“We have such a great life,” Baliardo beams. “Interesting people and interesting situations are always turning up for us in our travels. Our extended families and our culture all combine to bring us some great ideas.”
8 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at Hard Rock Live , 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $50 to $70 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.