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After 30 Years, Gipsy Kings Keep Crowds Dancing

  • Reuters

FILE - Nicolas Reyes (L) of Gipsy Kings performs during the 21st Annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival at Pigeon Island National Landmark, May 11, 2012.

FILE - Nicolas Reyes (L) of Gipsy Kings performs during the 21st Annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival at Pigeon Island National Landmark, May 11, 2012.

Nearly 30 years after launching their "Rumba Flamenca" music style, the Gipsy Kings are still keeping crowds around the world dancing to hits such as "Bamboleo", "Djobi Djoba" and "Bem Bem Maria."

The group, whose music mixes flamenco with pop and Latin rhythms, is now on a tour that has taken it to Australia, the United States and Britain.

"Sometimes we have asked ourselves 'Why are we still around?'" vocalist Nicolas Reyes, one of the Reyes and Baliardo cousins in the band, told Reuters in an interview. "It's a type of music that even if some understand [the language] and others don't understand, it is danceable, universal."

The band members speak French but perform their music in Gitane, which mixes Spanish, French and Catalan. The Reyes and Baliardo families trace their roots from Spanish Romani people who left Catalonia for France during Spain's civil war in the late 1930s.

The cousins grew up in southern France, first playing together in the town of Arles and then travelling across the country, busking in Cannes and performing at weddings and festivals. Their 1987 "Gipsy Kings" album spent 40 weeks on the U.S. album charts.

"From flamenco we created a new style of rumba which is our own," lead guitarist Tonino Baliardo said. "It shook up flamenco music a bit."

The band, which according to their website have sold over 25 million albums, have won both Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards.

Their version of "Hotel California" featured in the 1998 Coen brothers film "The Big Lebowski" while the 2010 animated "Toy Story 3" had their version of the movie's Randy Newman-written theme tune "You've Got a Friend in Me."

The band's last album "Savor Flamenco" was released in 2013.

Asked what comes next, Reyes and Baliardo said they were open to collaborations.

"We really like Eric Clapton, Santana and many artists," Baliardo said.

"We are open to many artists," Reyes added.

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