Attendees of this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) 2023 were graced with the electric presence of Grammy Award-winning band, Gipsy Kings featuring Tonino Baliardo on the evening of June 23, 2023 at Sarawak Cultural Village.
The Gipsy Kings have toured the world, selling over 20 million albums worldwide and even winning a Grammy Award in 2013 for Best World Music for their album ‘Savor Flamenco’. As virtuosos of gypsy music, thanks to the band’s Romani roots, Gipsy Kings have captivated audiences worldwide with their unique fusion of traditional Spanish flamenco, gipsy rhapsody and pop with salsa funk.
Unfortunately after 30 years, members of the band have gone their separate ways, but two remaining members subsequently formed their own bands under the Gipsy Kings brand. Performing at this year’s RWMF is the world-renowned musical ensemble that features Tonino Baliardo, the lead guitarist of the original band.
In 2014, the French guitarist put together a band under the name Gipsy Kings with his sons, Mikaël and Cosso Baliardo, who also plays the guitar, as well as Same Rey, Loukas and Miguel Kimbeo. With chart-topping hits like “Bamboleo”, “Djobi Djona” and “Un Amor”, the group is one of the most beloved and influential groups in the global music scene!
We had the chance to sit down for a chat with four of six members of the band, including Tonino and his son, Cosso as well as lead singers Loukas and Same Rey, these are some things they had to say, with the help of a translator:
How do you feel, being here in Malaysia for the first time? Are you enjoying the weather?
- We’re absolutely delighted to be here. The hospitality, the landscape, everything has been absolutely gorgeous! We’re from the south of France, which is pretty sunny already so there’s not much of a difference. But it’s definitely more humid here!
Congratulations on your Grammy Award for the Best World Music Album! What is something you want to see in the world music scene?
- Before we came onto the scene, world music is a pretty niche genre. We have helped opened up the genre worldwide and we will continue to open the genre up even more so that more people around the world can experience it!
The RWMF will be featuring performers from all over the world. How does being in this festival align with your values as well as your roots?
- The band makes the kind of music they do by travelling around the world! The foundation of gypsy music is the mixing of different genres, communities as well as meeting new people.
We’re very happy to welcome you to your first RWMF! What will you bring to your own performance that is unique to this festival?
- Each and every concert is unique to its location. It will be a different concert than anywhere else we have done before. Tonino, in particular, is very happy to bring the sound of gypsies to Malaysia for the first time and hopes that everyone will enjoy it!
In your opinion, what sets the Gipsy Kings apart from other bands?
- Gipsy Kings is all about fusion. We’re from the southern part of France, close to the Spanish border, which is why we sing in Spanish as well as different French dialects. We’re passionate about fusion, about mixing flamenco with Catalan rumba and salsa.
Do you have any upcoming singles we can look forward to?
- We have a new single out called Chica Del Sol as well as a new album titled Renaissance that we’ve been touring since the past year! We’re also excited to announce that we having something coming in the near future for this part of the world in Southeast Asia.
During RWMF, you will be exposed to the local Sarawakian culture and music. Would you be open to collaborating with our local Sarawakian artists in the future?
- We’re always eager to perform, collaborate and record with new artists! We’re open to creating new fusion music as well as finding new artists to mix with.
What advice do you have for new artists just making their start in the world of music?
- Work hard, keep going, never give up and make sure you’re still in love with the music as you go along!
After doing this for many years, especially Tonino who has been with the Gipsy Kings since the beginning, how do you still find joy in creating music?
- For Tonino, his love for music has never faded, and is basically what keeps him going. In fact, he wishes that he could go on making music forever and ever!
The Gipsy Kings performance
Tonino Baliardo (centre) on stage with his sons, Cosso and Mikael Baliardo
Vocalist, Same Rey (right) and Miguel Kimbeo