There’s a good reason you won’t find many interviews online with the Gipsy Kings, a rumba-pop and traditional Flamenco group from the South of France. The band members speak only French. And as Folio Weekly found out during a recent email interview with Tonino Baliardo, Gipsy King’s lead guitarist and songwriter, much could’ve been lost in translation.
However, with the help of a translator, Baliardo was happy to answer our questions but, as you’ll read below, it can sometimes be difficult to carry on an intimate conversation via the Internet when two people don’t speak the same language.
So although this didn’t turn out to be our finest, most in-depth exploration of a musical outfit, we feel like we still got the goods, since Baliardo was such a gracious interviewee with our questions.
And regardless of language fluency, we strongly encourage you to check out their upcoming show this week at The Florida Theatre, in support of their ninth studio album, Savor Flamenco.
After all, Baliardo and fellow bandleader Nicolas Reyes have been at it since 1978, with the Gipsy Kings selling more than 18 million albums worldwide, earning Grammy Award nominations and wins, and an ever-growing fan base that reaches every corner of the globe.
Folio Weekly: How has the group evolved over the past 25-plus years?
Tonino Baliardo: Our forefathers began making traditional music in settlements in the South of France. We have taken what we’ve gained from our experiences traveling the world for last 25 years, seeing other cultures, recording albums, and have applied that to the traditional music of our forefathers.
What’s life like on the road for the Gipsy Kings?
At times, it’s wonderful. And at times, it’s difficult. It’s wonderful seeing and interacting with our fans on a daily basis. We experience really great moments while performing music that is close to our hearts. But it’s difficult being away from our families so much. We miss our home, which is where we get the strength to do what we do.
As two sets of brothers in the band, what is it like working together? Do the relationships present obstacles?
Over the last 25 years, the two consistent people in the band have been Nicolas Reyes and me. We have worked with our brothers and it’s always been wonderful to work with family. We’ve started to involve our sons now and that has been an added pleasure. We will be bringing our sons to The Florida Theatre to show you this new line-up of the Gipsy Kings.
What’s the band dynamic? Is it a democracy?
The band has always been run by Nicolas and me. Nicolas sings and I write the music. That has been consistent from the beginning to the present. We have collaborated nicely together for all these years.
Your music encompasses many different cultural sounds. How have the sound and influences changed over the years as you’ve traveled the world?
[They’ve] changed in many ways, but always come back to the main point: that it is the music of our fathers.
Savor Flamenco is your ninth studio album and first release in six years. It’s also the first time the band produced an album in its entirety and wrote all of the material. Tell me about that.
It was a natural progression. We felt the songs needed us to be part of the complete process. With producing comes the responsibility of writing the material, picking the best songs to use and finding the right musicians to play the material. We had an opportunity to do what we wanted with this record and that opportunity led us to a very rewarding album.
The album also won a Grammy for Best New World Music Album. How did that feel?
We were very fortunate to win a Grammy, and it’s always nice to be acknowledged in the industry in which we work.
Are you working on new material? When can fans expect new music from the Gipsy Kings?
We’re always working on new material. As we travel the world, we find interesting material and when we get time from touring and being with our families, we will record a new record. We hope it won’t take six more years to do that. We’ll definitely have something next year.
Does winning a Grammy put added pressure on the next album?
No, what puts pressure on us is for us to do right by the people that influence us and continue to work with us. We feel it’s our responsibility to make the best record we can.
What’s next for Gipsy Kings?
We would like to do more work in film and TV and record a new project for next year. We’re always interested in anything new within this industry, so we are constantly searching.