Photography by Mark Hetzel
An enthusiastic crowd welcomed the Gipsy Kings last Thursday at Ravinia, a place that has become their second home in Chicago. Although the concert felt somewhat short (one and half hour), they pleased the audience by playing many of their popular songs such as Djobi Djoba, Un Amor, A Tu Vera, Caramelo, Volare and Bamboleo. The Kings also played some songs with a strong Latino influence such as Samba Samba, Sabroso, and the solo of cajon and congas. The highlight of the show happened at the end of the concert, when the band allowed the ladies in the audience to get on the stage and dance with them. Many of these ladies were dancing around them seductively. The Kings, as good professionals, were able to keep playing without missing a single beat.
Chicago was the last city of their American Tour this year. Fortunately, it was a perfect evening to close the tour with an outdoors concert. The lawn at Ravinia was packed with fans from around the world. Walking through it, you could hear a multitude of foreign languages being spoken. One of the people sitting at the lawn was Natasha Boyderman, who came to Ravinia from Sauganash, a neighborhood located in the Northwest side of Chicago. In her group alone there were people from Cuba, China, Chile, Germany, Italy,Macedonia, Mexico, Russia, Syria, and the United States. Natasha mentioned that she likes the diversity of people who go to Ravinia to see the Gipsy Kings. She considers that it is very important for Chicago and for all ethnic groups to gather together in one place and that a Gipsy Kings concert is the perfect opportunity for this to happen. “Diversity – she stated- is definitely what makes us unified and stronger”.
After the concert, I was able to talk to a charming Andre Reyes, who plays the guitar and does back up vocals in the band. Andre told me that he loves Chicago food and that he enjoys the atmosphere and the crowd at Ravinia. He also explained that the band is a family affair. They are all cousins from two related gypsy families with roots in Barcelona, Spain: the Reyes and the Balliardos. The cousins met by chance at Montpellier, France, more than two decades ago. After jamming together on that occasion, they decided to start the group. Despite being so famous, Andre is a very approachable artist. Nicolas Reyes, his brother and the lead singer of the band, has the same charismatic demeanor. Maybe this is part of the secret for their sustained success. The Gipsy Kings are still going strong and are able to move our souls (and feet) with their wonderful music.