Liviu Tipurita goes inside the world of Romania's super-rich Gypsy popstars - a world of fast cars, lavish houses and gangsters - to look at a type of Gypsy music called Manele.
After their internationally successful 1988 self-titled debut, few have followed the the Gypsy Kings' noteworthy fusion of their distinctive flamenco-inflected pop with other international influences. Love & Liberte, a 1994 Elektra Records release, is one of their few compilations of all-new material, one that demonstrates this growth perhaps more than any of their other projects. One of their more extravagant songs, "No Vivire" implements a prominent bassline and strong brass accents in the chorus. Equally pleasant but slightly less authentic, "Escucha Me" crosses their Spanish guitar sound with a full reggae ensemble. The album's zenith hits with two instrumental tracks, "Guitarra Negra" and "Love and Liberte." "Guitarra Negra" shows off castanets with bongos. Every few bars, the intensity seems to reach a peak, only to retreat and regroup for another charge.
The Gipsy Kings are largely responsible for bringing the joyful sounds of progressive pop-oriented flamenco to the world. The band started out in Arles, a village in southern France, during the '70s when brothers Nicolas and Andre Reyes, the sons of renowned flamenco artist Jose Reyes, teamed up with their cousins. Their eponymous 1988 album sold tremendously in France and appeared on the Top Ten album charts in 12 European countries, including England; in 1989, it spent 40 weeks on the U.S. charts and went gold, becoming one of the few Spanish albums to do so.
…is an especially dynamic introduction to the sound of the Spanish Gypsy ensemble.
Tierra Gitana - Over the years the Gipsy Kings - who hail from the Gypsy settlements in Arles and Montpelier in the South of France - have included singers and guitarists from the Reyes and Baliardo families. The band's vigorous guitar work and passionate vocals are the trademark of an indigenous musical tradition known as rumba flamenca.
There are no other examples of a non-English speaking band (the group's language is the Gypsy dialect of Gitane) with such a consistent winning streak in the US, where the group is the biggest selling French act ever.
The mega-hit album that introduced the general public to the flamenco flavors, ebullient vocals and rushing rhythms of the Gypsies.
The Gipsy Kings' main strength is their consistency. Throughout their career, they have managed to craft an accessible, pop-oriented version of flamenco and gypsy music that also pushes boundaries. During it all, they recorded classy, satisfying albums like Compas. There's not much different about Compas, but since the album is so well made and enchanting, that isn't a curse; it's a blessing.