Colleen has told me once or twice that she wishes I would play more music for her in the evenings, when she comes home from work. She’s a great cook, but sometimes she needs musical inspiration and after all these years I still don’t have a bead on the music that really moves her. Like me she’s a classic rock kid, raised in Southern California in the ’70s and ’80s, so her ears prick up when I play things like Steely Dan and Dire Straits. But I do know she has a special place for the Gipsy Kings–she even brought a few of their albums into the relationship. That’s where Diego Baliardo’s Este Ritmo (website) comes to the rescue.
I don’t know Diego Baliardo by name, but when I put Este Ritmo into the CD player and pressed play I instantly thought oh, this is just like the Gipsy Kings. There’s a good reason for that: Baliardo is one of their founders. (If you’re a Gipsy Kings fan, you know the group was started in 1987 by two pairs of brothers from the Baliardo and Reyes families.) He’s formed a new band, The Gypsy Revolution, and they are dedicated to preserving folk music from the Romani people of Spain, that exuberant and rhythmic sound that’s heavy on acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies and draws inspiration from reggae, jazz, Django Reinhardt and even Arabic music.
Este Ritmo, which means “this rhythm,” is also a family affair. Diego Baliardo’s grandsons, Marlon and Gibson, join him on guitars and backing vocals. Antione Ona, a longtime family friend, plays bass. The exquisite layers of percussion are provided by Pacheco Rodolfo, who has played with Diego Baliardo for years. That familiarity and love carries over into the music, which is not quite as wild and wooly as the Kings were thirty years ago. This album has a more solid, pop-coated center with tight harmonies and song structures. If the Gipsy Kings were all about bringing a rare and delightful folklore to the world, The Gypsy Evolution are more about reintroducing these themes in a streamlined manner that might seem catchier and more accessible to today’s audiences.
Does all that matter? Probably not, because you’re going to hit play and you’re probably going to get up and start dancing and making a damned fool out of yourself in front of friends and loved ones. If you’re a Gipsy Kings fan, you’re going to pick up on the fact that Diego Baliardo was the more calm and serene vocalist and that’s why Este Ritmo sounds so even and steady and measured. But it is endlessly fun, the perfect music to cheer you up on those lonely days. I’m going to have it playing tonight when Colleen comes home. I’m not saying a thing to her–I’ll just wait for her reaction. She’ll probably start dancing, I’ll wager.