• Special Features: Names, Places, Happenings
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NATHALIE'S EVENT PORTRAIT *
Les Saintes Maries de la Mer
Anybody who has ever heard their music is spellbound: ‘Los Reyes' - the gipsy kings of music - have people the world over tapping their feet to their pulsating beat. We went to a live performance at the gipsy festival which takes place every year in the Camargue.
The Camargue on the Rhone delta comprises of over 70,000 hectares and it is between the river and the sea that one finds the pink flamingos, black bulls and wild white horses. This French marshland is a nature reserve, but that on its own is not what attracts thousands of visitors to the Camargue every year. The people who travel to St. Maries de la Mer, at the end of May,a small community of just 2000 people come because of the famous gipsy pilgrimage.
The Romanies as the gipsies call themselves, come from all over Europe with caravans, tents and horse-drawn carts. The various branches of the ‘families' come together for two days to pray and celebrate with music.
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The famous flamenco pop is infectious and it's difficult stop yourself shouting out for an encore. We are lucky and get treated to our own special serenade by some young gipsies. Where would the gipsies be without their music? Even the oldest documents mention the Romany gipsy as a lute player. For the gitanos , who mainly live in Spain, Portugal and the South of France, it is not the violin but the guitar which is the magical instrument, the song and the voice of the heart, the dance and the body's melody all rolled into one.
Despite various speculations as to the land of origin of the Romany gipsies, experts have now established that it was India. Philologists agree that Romany, which is also the name given to the language of the gipsies, actually derives from an Indian dialect. In the first century AD, this restless group of people left their Indian homeland. The first mention of gipsies in Europe for example, was in 1407.
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One of the best known gipsies is Antonio Reyes who has earned international fame with his group ‘Los Reyes'. His name means ‘king of the gipsies'. Antonico's family has written musical history. José Reyes was a legendary gipsy singer, Antonico's cousins are the Gipsy Kings, while his uncle is the flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata (photo right). Antonico and Los Reyes have been well-known for over 12 years now - their bambolero music topped the charts throughout Europe .
It is an unforgettable sight watching the various gipsy families arriving to pay homage to Sahra, their black patron saint. What is a religious tradition for the 30,000 gipsies also provides an exciting and exotic spectacle for 50,000 tourists. Old prejudices which branded gipsies as beggars and thieves are suddenly forgotten. Here one realises the difficulties these people are continually confronted with. They may sing about their freedom, but they are continually having to fight to protect their way of life. The holy procession slowly makes its way down to the beach. According to legend, Jesus's aunts were stranded here with their servant Sahra around 41 AD. At the water's edge the patron saint is sprayed with water.
After two days, it's all over for the tourists. Whilst St. Marie, exhausted, slowly doses off again, the gipsies continue the festivities with their families and we were invited to celebrate with them! My friendship with Antonico Reyes is also the reason that we were allowed to film in the ‘Mas du Clarouset'. This typical provincial villa is an absolute insider tip and anybody who wants to see gipsy life first-hand can experience it here in the evenings - provided, of course, you are invited. They are kind and open so perhaps you will be as lucky as we were....Here the gipsies dance and laugh the night away. All of the big names are here such as Manitas de Plata, the Gipsy Kings, Antonico Reyes. The joie de vivre of the gipsies is infectious and makes the ‘festival des gitans' into an unforgettable experience.
Singing and making music have been traditional gipsy professions, for hundreds of years and are as typical of the traveller as selling horses and carpets, fortune-telling and handicrafts. Antonico Reyes has since opted for a more sedentary lifestyle in order to concentrate on his music. Los Reyes have already made 7 successful albums. Their greatest hit was the album ‘The Gipsy Kings of Music.' All their recordings recount the magic of Camargue, the campsite fires and the wild horses in St. Maries.
If you want to experience this unique gipsy feeling yourself and meet the real 'gitanos de la Camargue' - including members of the 'Gipsy Kings' and 'Los Reyes',, then book my exclusive lifestyle trip
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* This special feature "Gipsy Festival" has been one of more than 300 Portraits, produced by Nathalie Gütermann for her TV-Shows 'Nathalie's Lifestyle' and 'Nathalie's Art of Living' that were broadcasted between 1990 - 2003 in Germany and in 15 countries world-wide. The content has been updated with actual information in 2004 for Nathalies-Lifestyle.com © 1990 - 2004. The reproduction or other use of any text, photographs, etc. needs the prior written permission of the Chief Publisher.