22 February 2011

Gypsy music

I absolutely adore an additional category that complements my post on gypsy caravans...LA MUSIQUE

Music is such an integral part of gypsy life and, from what I can tell, it has always been so. Over many centuries, Indians (beginning in Rajahstan in the 9th-11th centuries), Eastern Europeans, Moors and other Mediterranean cultures traveled West through North Africa, into Southern Spain (via the Straits of Gibraltar) and from there, North into France, Portugal, Italy and beyond. It is said that the word "gypsy" comes from their having spent time in Egypt. (For more in depth gypsy history, check out the National Geographic here.) To suit these gypsies' nomadic lifestyle, their instruments had to be small so they could be transported easily... guitars, violins, accordions, flutes, hand-held percussion instruments, etc.

The Birth of FLAMENCO

The Romani tribe (les Romanies), one of the biggest in the South of France, according to Wikipedia, "...have long acted as wandering entertainers and tradesmen. In all the places Romanies live, they have become known as musicians. The wide distances traveled have introduced a multitude of influences, starting with Indian roots and adding elements of Greek, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Czech, Slavic, Romanian, German, French and Spanish music forms." Romani music (also called Roma music) has always tended to be an adaptation of and fusion with its host culture's music. Along the way, around the 15th century, flamenco was born, attributed to the Romani people of Andalusia. It is, apparently, a derivation of Romani, Arabic and Andalusian musical styles.

Jack and I have always been avid flamenco fans. In fact, for his 50th birthday, I surprised him with a Spanish flamenco group, who came to our house and gave a rousing show - an instrumental  and vocal extravaganza with clapping and dancing with castanets, by daughters of the musicians, their shoes stomping thunderously on our old wooden floors. Their costumes were gorgeous, and the entire performance was electrifying! Unfortunately, the following photos are NOT from our party...

Jack, himself, has been playing flamenco guitar, dabbling on and off for over forty years. I love listening to him "fool around" on the guitar. So as you can imagine, his playing would be ever present at our gypsy caravan picnics and other parties!
 Jack is my own flamenco guitarist. Below, some of our "gypsy" family and friends.
These photos are from my previous post, Delightful Meals with Family and Friends.

In recent years, flamenco-style music has seen a resurgence in new recordings and rereleases, beginning with the unprecedented international popularity of The Gipsy Kings, who hail from Arles, at the Northern edge of the Camargue, in Provence. The band is made up of brothers from two families. One of the fathers, Jose Reyes, played in a duo with Manitas de Plata for many years.

Manitas playing in his terroir, The Camargue

Spanish flamenco aficionados tend to pooh-pooh these French bands, as they play somewhat bastardized versions of true flamenco. (The Gipsy Kings are definitely flamenco/rock.) That being said, I guess that is what gypsy music has always been about - travel, adapt, travel, adapt...!

 The great Gipsy Kings (above & below)
We have seen the Gipsy Kings in concert, and I can assure you they put on one helluva show. True to their nomadic heritage, The Gipsy Kings are often touring. Click here for their current North American, British and Eastern European show schedule.
I have never heard this album - Gypsy Flamenco from the Camargue - but it looks intriguing.

Flamenco today

Not that Paco Pena's a gypsy, but for true Spanish flamenco, Paco Pena and his Flamenco Dance Company give an incredible performance. Click here for his current international tour schedule.
Paco Pena (above & below) puts on an unforgettable show

And of course, we love the incomparable Paco de Lucia. He has just finished a tour schedule, but look for him in the future, as his shows are enthralling.

I have an extensive playlist on my iPod, that will be set up in my dream gypsy caravan. Here are some YouTube videos to get YOU in the mood (click on each name to be taken to that video):

Bamboleo, by The Gypsy Kings -great video, even though it has Japanese subtitles throughout
Bem Bem Maria (live), by The Gypsy Kings - shows how great they are in concert
Alzapua, by Paco Pena - very short, but shows his hands, close-up
Alegrias, by Paco Pena - lovely solo
Rio Ancho, by Paco de Lucia - one of my favorite songs of all time!
Mediterranean Sundance (live), by Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin & Al di Meola - the incredible Elegant Gypsy trio
Mediterranean Sundance, by Paco de Lucia & Al Di Meola (great cover by Dick Fische) - I like this cover version

Finally, this last video is great fun to watch (and listen to), as it combines photos - old and new - of annual gypsy festivals, in May, at Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in the Camargue. This is the pilgrimage I wrote of, in my last post, where gypsies from all over Europe gather in the South of France, to process to the water carrying their patron saint, the black Sainte Sarah, led by Catholic priests and the guardiens cowboys. The religious festivities are followed by days of music and dancing.

If this music doesn't get you dancing, or at least tapping your toes, I don't know what will. Enjoy!!

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