The group launched in the mid-1980s when members of the Reyes family, including lead vocalist Nicolas Reyes, joined with the three guitar-playing Baliardo brothers to fashion a new kind of music based on the ebullient sounds of rumba catalana. Gitanos had long been fusing the complex strumming of traditional flamenco with Latin beats, created by rhythmic, percussive tapping on the guitars’ tops. Blending rumba catalana with more pop-oriented songwriting, the group played at Romani parties and at street corners around France until finally recording as the Gipsy Kings. “Djobi Djoba” and “Bamboleo” proved huge French pop hits and the group was soon picked up for American distribution by Elektra – a very fitting match that recalled and extended the label’s early explorations of world music some three decades before.
Released in 1988, their self-titled label debut spent the better part of the next year on a variety of Billboard charts. An RIAA platinum-certified sensation, Gipsy Kings remains one of the best-selling foreign-language albums in U.S. history. 1989’s Mosaique reached #1 on Billboard’s “Top World Music Albums” chart, followed by a succession of further Elektra releases, including 1992’s Live!, an essential document of the Gipsy Kings’ onstage fire.
In 1995, The Best Of The Gipsy Kings hit #1 on both the “Top World Music Albums” and “Latin Pop” charts and swiftly reached platinum status. Their instantly recognizable songs have also appeared in a range of film and television projects, with their high-speed flamenco cover of The Eagles’ “Hotel California” famously featured in Joel & Ethan Coen’s 1998 cult comedy, The Big Lebowski.