by Marta Rhine
As The Gipsy Kings prepared to play at The Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to interview the famed French Flamenco musicians. Their music, a captivating blend of Spanish Flamenco, Latin rhythm, and hints of pop, is unique, passionate and, may I add, very romantic. Lead guitarist Tonino Baliardo was kind enough to answer some questions about how the band has enjoyed such great success for twenty five years, all starting with their debut album which went on to be certified gold and platinum and turning millions of people into Gipsy King fans. The Gipsy Kings are more than a band; they are a legacy, a musical heirloom they wish to someday pass down to their sons.
As The Gipsy Kings tour the world, entertaining old and new fans alike, they savor the rewards of their hard work and dedication, the release of their ninth studio album after a six-year pause, and a relationship with a new label, Knitting Factory Records. All the while, they keep doing what they love to do: making music, which they do with the same passion and fervor that sparked a global phenomenon twenty-five years ago.
Q: How did eight French artists come to play Latin-inspired music while singing in Spanish? Has this limited your exposure in your homeland? What was the inspiration behind that original record?
WE are Gipsoes and for years gypsies have traveled around Europe. We have picked up the influences of many cultures, French, Spanish, Italian, north African, Persia , etc.
We have traveled around the world and played to many cultures. We don’t feel like it has been limited in any way. Actually, our music has been played as much as rock, jazz, blues and many other types of music.
Q: Your first, self-titled record was a huge success. Now it’s been 25 years and you’re still going strong. Do you still feel the rush and anticipation of those early days? How does that drive forward the music you make today?
We love what we do. Playing in many countries to many kinds of people, we are happy each and every day. That is what pushed us. We love to play. We are grateful to be able to do what we can and owe this all to our fans who support us and turn us on to other people.
Q: What is it you love about Flamenco/Latin Rhythm?
We love the raw spirit of Flamenco, it is powerful and you feel that power every time you play.
Q: Savor Flamenco is the first album in which you will be writing and producing. How has that experience been?
It has been a tremendous experience for us. We were able to get straight to the heart of what we wanted to record. Having the freedom to experiment was great. We were really happy to win the Grammy on this record for Best World Music Album as well.
Q: What do you see for the future of your group?
We want to continue what we are doing, playing and recording. Our sons will be opening up for us on the road this year. We are excited to see our fans and how they like it. We would like to do more movies or TV music and record more.
Q: How do you like St. Petersburg/The Mahaffey?
We love both the city of St. Petersburg and of course Tampa – we wrote a song inspired by Tampa. ) as well as the Mahaffey Theatre where it has great sound and the staff especially the promoters have always been very kind to us. We can’t wait to come and play some of our latest songs and maybe some future ones as well.
Q: Where do you look forward to touring for Savor Flamenco? Any specific place you look forward to travel to/play music at?
Every night, doesn’t matter what city, we are able to do what we love most, play, so it doesn’t matter to us. We are just grateful to our fans for coming and sharing the night with them.