A mild evening breeze, the moon slowly dips below the Paris skyline throwing gentle shadows through the high windows; the woman at Hotel Raphael listens to the voices, the stories, the guitars, the unbelievable rhythm... later she writes to the musicians: "Dear Gypsy Kings, ... whoopee!! What rhythm! What voices! I was an instant addict. Thank you for your music ... a true fan ... Joan Baez".
Chico Bouchikhi left the Gypsy Kings five years ago. On paper that sounds like an everyday occurrence, but if means far more for him. After all, the band used to be his family .. it still is. Chico is a brother-in-law of the Reyes family, the "Kings". Years ago he was the founding member of Los Reyes, who later became the world famous Gypsy Kings. He still gets on well with them, despite the split; they still share the same love of life joy, sorrow - of "musique gitane". A love which unites them with millions of people like "Bamboleo" and "Mosaique" sold in excess of 100 million units and are among the best-selling albums of the century. Friends of this type of music will be pleased to hear: CHICO & THE GYPSIES is Chico's new band; Manolo, Patrick, Manero and Tane are with him and "Vagabundo" is the title of their new album.
Actors, painters and musicians are among Chico's fans and circle of friends. The still picturesque St. Tropez of the recent past was home to a creative circle drawn from the most varied artist sectors and Chico made friends with them: Brigitte Bardot, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Nicholson, Charles Aznavour, Mick Jagger and so on ... "I will his house at Vevey," recounts Chico. "This man, who had tears in his eyes when he heard us playing! It was a moving image which I will never, never forget."
Experiences like this emphasise his belief that the world, far from all its individual languages and barriers, does speak and understand a common tongue. A language which unites people universally music. " I can't imagine life without it: without music I would not be happy. And everyone can feel this happiness, even if they can't imagine life without it; without music I would not be happy. And everyone can feel this lyrics. Everyone can sense the unfettered passion for feeling of coming closer, step by step, to the one they love, of admitting their all - consuming love at last, and everyone senses the feeling of sadness of unfulfilled love, knows the pain of love lost ..."
"Musique gitane" is multicultural, like Chico himself: his father is from Morocco, his mother from Algeria, his wife is French. On "Vagabundo" Chico & the Gypsies have mixed traditional flamenco with pop. Salso and all manner of musical influences. The hot, bubbling ingredients ignite a true and frenzied firework display of guitars, song and irresistible, inviting rhythms. Anyone who has already experienced Chico live will know how quickly the spark flies to the happily, dancing and singing audience. After all, enthusiasm is multi-cultural, not limited to countries or languages.
We are a modern gypsy pop band; and the emphasis is on pop. We go out of our way to sound modern. After all, what we view today as traditional was once modern in comparison with older, ("cantaro" in Spanish)... and so he did indeed become - by a roundabout derivation - "cantante", a singer.
Manolo, Patrick Manero and Tane would not like to be without the easy feeling of freedom and it is only Chico who has renounced life on caravan sites for the comforts of a stone house. "Vagabundo" was written here, at El Patio, Chico's hacienda. And it is perhaps only here, in this magical haven in Provence, that one realises what the music of Chico & the Gypsies means to people all over the world.
"I believe in the unique power of music, in its power to unite all. Our songs are about love, woman as an object of passion and respect, the entwined paths of love; we sing about the feeling of longing to travel or homesickness, of fiestas with dancing , music and everything that belongs to a gypsy celebration. "the annual "Mosaique Gitane" festival which Chico organises from Arabia, Africa, Spain, Romania, Turkey, Greece, the whole world, come to play for several days in the historic amphitheatre. They come from everywhere that gypsies, with their varied way of life and culture, have influenced musical performance.
Chico has received much praise from beyond national borders for his efforts on behalf of "musique gitane" and the whole gypsy culture. Former president Francois Mitterand invited him to his Christmas party, Jacques Chirac honoured him for his music UNESCO appointed him an Honorary Ambassador of Peace on march 30, 1996. "Part of our music will always remain traditional, and part is influenced by the here and now. In the gypsies' world the link between origins and the modern world is perfectly natural. What we must not overlook is that the modern component in our music, which has given many people access to our music, has smoothed the way to success for many traditional artists from our culture. A cover version of a simple pop song -such as "Marina", for instance, my daughter's favourite song - is just as acceptable to us as songs fully of melancholy. Listen to "Cristo": when Manolo sings, the cry of a whole people is behind him."
A cry which, in the night when Joan Baez listened over and over again to the cassette, was clearly audible. And not just from her. A cry full of lust and love, full of freedom and longing. Like a distant echo from the desert - a cry for life.