Okay, the name may be unfamiliar at first, but Diego Baliardo is one of the founders of the world-famous Gipsy Kings, the highest selling musical group to come out of France, with over 20 million albums sold over their 35-year run. Baliardo is carrying on this tradition with his new group, The Gypsy Evolution on Este Ritmo (This Rhythm), blending traditional flamenco styles with Western pop and Latin rhythms as well as elements of Arabic music, reggae, and jazz guitar that, of course, owes to French gypsy master Django Reinhardt.
This music has an intoxicating pulse, making it impossible to sit still. And, it has it roots in the two families that formed the Gipsy Kings in 1987, two sets of brothers from the Baliardo and Reyes families. The Gypsy Evolution is made up of members of the Baliardo family and friends, Marlon Baliardo ((guitars) and Gibson Baliardo (guitars) are brothers and Diego’s grandsons. Antoine Ona, a friend of Gibson’s is the bassist while Pacheco Rodolfo is a percussionist who is a longtime collaborator with Diego. The mix of three guitars with Diego on lead vocals and his grandsons in support flows through a variety of rhythms while Rodolfo uses congas, shakers, timbales, tambourines, and basically anything he can get his hands on.
Diego offers, “…Music is in my blood, I can’t imagine not playing music. Though at my age now, I think my music is a little mellower than it has been in the past.” Smiles and joy come through the music whether it’s the tongue-in-cheek “no Tengo Dinero” (I Don’t Have Money”), to the exuberant “Mi Nino” (My Child) to romantic, like “Cara Bonita” (Pretty Face). “Bambino” is distinctly Caribbean Latin, while the title track is more flamenco with a swaying, undulating rhythm. Throughout Diego sings expressively. The percussive, hand-clapped, “Casita Mama” is a showcase for Rodolfo’s driving beats. “Loquita Loca” brings in some reggae and “Bonita” merges pop and Latin in an impossibly infectious groove. The closer, “El Loco” is like a singalong, seemingly deeply steeped in the gypsy culture.
This band exudes unbridled joy that will inevitably have you shaking, dancing, and encouraging others to do the same.
- Jim Hynes