The Gipsy Kings from Montpelier and Arles in Southern France featured Andre and Nicolas Reyes (sons of flamenco singer Jose Reyes) and four members of the Baliardo family, all of them relatives of the Reyes brothers.
The sextet formed in 1979 but made a commercial leap in 1986 when they hooked up with manager/producer Claude Martinez, who put a rock rhythm section together with their furiously strummed acoustic guitars.
The first fruit of this combination was Gipsy Kings (1987) which spawned the hit singles Djobi Djobi and Bamboleo and featured songs full of stirring singing (in the gypsy dialect of Gitane – an amalgam of Spanish, French and Catalan patois) led by Nicolas Reyes and flamenco guitar played over danceable rhythms.
The album quickly rose to the Top 10 in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Scandinavia, Turkey, Italy and, of course, France. Though a US release had to wait another year, America also succumbed and the album sold a million copies there, spending 40 weeks on the charts.
Subsequent Gipsy Kings albums followed the pattern and continued to appeal to listeners into the 21st century, opening the door for other forms of World Music to be heard around the globe.
Jahloul ‘Chico’ Bouchikhi
Francis (Canute) Reyes