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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 April, 2004, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Kings hope to reclaim Gypsy name
Gipsy Kings
The Gipsy Kings are the biggest-selling French act in the US
Folk band the Gipsy Kings have said they want to "reclaim" the word Gypsy to turn it into something positive, amid negative publicity in the current political climate.

The group, whose music is popular worldwide, originate from the Gypsy community of southern France. They sing in the Gypsy dialect of Gitane.

Gypsies and travellers have received much negative press, which has heightened surrounding debates over migration.

In some areas of the world, to be called a "Gypsy" is an insult. But the band's manager Pascal Imbert told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme they were keen to use their music to show a different meaning to the term.

"We want to not only reclaim it, but show that there are a lot of great things in Gypsy culture," he said.

"Gypsy people bring a lot of good to the world community, and have a lot of good things to bring - not only music, but a lot of other, different forms of art."

Returning home

Mr Imbert added that the Gipsy Kings - the biggest-selling French act in the US - were tackling this negative perception head-on, even in their cover art.

"People were always scared of having Gypsies around their cities, living and staying in their own groups," he said.

"You see on the photo cover of the album a bunch of Gypsies playing with kids, dancing in the middle.

"A little further away are what they call the gadjo [white non-Gypsies] and they are staying away, they're scared because they're not part of this thing."

The Gipsy Kings with The Ticket's Mark Coles (left)
The Gipsy Kings are a close band of brothers and cousins
This demonstration of gypsy craft has been extended to the recording of their new album, Roots.

The group, who are best-known for their worldwide hit Bamboleo, have often used electronic instruments and high-tech studios to produce their albums.

But Roots was recorded in a farmhouse in the south of France - the region of the group's own roots, an hour from their homes in Montpellier.

"The band wanted to go through the complete process and control more of the sound," Mr Imbert said.

He added that as a result, the album captured the feeling of a Gypsy home "in front the camp fire, having that sound... that sound came just like they were playing at a Gypsy camp".

The Gipsy Kings are a family of musicians - sons or cousins of great flamenco singers in the 1960s - and the group's lead singer Nicolas Reyes is the son of the famous Jose Reyes.

Reyes said Roots was full of "simple, good songs."

"We loved the space," he added. "It felt like the old caravan time. The whole house would be alive in this [recording] room."

Gipsy Kings sing for homes
20 Jul 00  |  Europe

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