For those that were at The Daniel last weekend, the first-ever New England performance of the Gypsy All Stars was an event not soon to be forgotten. On Sept. 19, The Coast Bar +Bistro was filled with the thrilling Indo-Gypsy fusion sound that is making the Gypsy All Stars grow in acclaim throughout the world.
A collaboration between former Gipsy Kings members Mario Reyes and Cedric Leonardi, the band explores the origins of gypsy culture in India and merges Indian and Gypsy rhythms.
At The Daniel we felt that bringing the Gypsy All Stars to Maine was a reflection of the cultural collaboration we seek in combining Western processes with Eastern hospitality at our hotel. At the same time though, as their performance attested, listening to the Gypsy All Stars marry the classical Gypsy sound with Indian folk music is a truly unique experience and the result of an amazing collaboration.
We knew coming into the special acoustic show at The Coast Bar + Bistro that the Gypsy All Stars was a band full of incredible musicians that put on a tremendous show.
But seeing them live exceeded all expectations.
Mario Reyes’ Flamenco-infused guitar playing is a treat to any musical palate and when he took the lead during The Daniel show the notes plucked by his able fingers floated about The Coast Bar + Bistro like proclamations to the world that this Indo-Gypsy fusion dream that the band is chasing is a beautiful reality.
Reyes singing is equally lush and layered and has an old-world vibe that resonated with The Daniel audience on hand to experience sounds that were new to many, but welcomed by all.
Cedric Leonardi drove the band forward with drumming and direction that revealed his passion for the fusion-project. His approach to percussion is subtle and smooth and he has a light touch that is revealed as even more impressive when he shifted into denser passages and brought the full range of the drum kit into play.
His hi-hat rhythmic work, snare drumming and bass pedal footwork kept the band floating along on a smooth wall of percussive sound. It was also great to hear Leonardi’s input between songs on the band, the work they are doing and the song-writing process that is an ever-evolving master craft.
A real treat was the presence of the three Rajasthani folk musicians that helped the Gypsy All Stars first kick off their Indo-fusion odyssey last year. The band really burst onto scene with a headline performance at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival. During this performance, the Gypsy All Stars played, for the first time, with Rajasthani folk musicians. The infusion of Indian folk music into their sound has drawn universal praise and acclaim.
When the band traveled to the U.S. for its current tour, including performing at The Kennedy Center in Washington on September 12, and a number of West Coast dates, the Rajasthani musicians came along for their first performances in this country.
Joining the band at The Daniel were Manjoor Khan, Nehru Khan and Dilawar Khan. Their presence definitely thrilled the audience.
While the Manganiars blended in perfectly into the overall sound created by the Gypsy All Stars, the times when they were able to step out on their own were a rare exposure to the tones of folk music that has echoed throughout India’s villages for thousands of years.
The folk musicians contributed just three examples of Rajasthani folk instruments — dholak, harmonium and khartal — but when they all really got grooving together it transported the listener to a different time and place.
The percussive drum beat of the dholak is difficult to resist and its rhyme was a real fancy for those that wanted to venture out on the dance floor.
The wafting tones of the harmonium layered a sound on top of which the haunting Indian vocals sat perfectly in line, the highest notes hitting with a power not often heard in Western music.
Lastly, the truly unique sound of the khartal — at least to U.S. music lovers’ ears — was a real pleasure as the hand-percussive instruments were teased into moments of pure repetitive brilliance. The simplistic instruments seem like they should not be to carry the impressive full rhythm that they can, yet in the hands of true folk masters the claps became all that mattered in the room.
While the Gypsy All Stars are a huge hit in Asia and parts of Europe, U.S. listeners are only just now discovering the band and The Daniel was proud to bring this cultural exchange and fusion musical experience to American audiences!