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Gigi Mac Remembers The Fete des Gitans And I’m Sure It Remembers Her.

Rose, Noir et Blanc en Mai…
To me these colors will always represent the Camargue, the gorgeous southwest region of France — a place where the native language  blends with Catalan & Calo into something cool & murky & kind of funky… the elegant pink flamingos [almost surreal to watch while in flight], the powerful black bulls, and the majestic white Camargue ponies…
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 So right now that June is here, the Mediterranean is just a little more quiet than it was a few weeks ago. May 24th marks the Fete des Gitans– le Pelerinage as some call it.  A pilgrimage to a little beach town named Les Saintes Maries de la Mer.  From what I understand [if you follow these things] shortly after Jesus’ death, christians were being persecuted left & right.  Somehow Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacob & Mary Salome escaped to safer areas with their servant Sarah la Kali [ Sarah the black]. Their little boat made it to Southern Gaul, or what we know now as Southern France. Rumors circulate around Sarah – some speculate she was Egyptian, some say a true Romani because she would collect alms for the poor – I suppose that’s a quality to have to be a Romani?  Some even say she was the daughter of Mary Magdalene & Jesus… whatever the case may be, and keeping a long story short, the Roms adopted her as their very own saint—Saint Sarah, and every year in mid- to late- May quite the gathering of gypsies transpire in that sleepy little beach town to pay homage to their ‘Sainte Sarah’… As a disclaimer, I understand that the term ‘gypsy’ might be offensive to some, but my friends, who are of Rom origin are happy to call themselves that [gitan or gitane in french] and I, quite fond of my friends, use it with love & admiration.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Since the details and the origins of the festival/pilgrimage get little muddled & confusing [sometimes I wonder if the gypsies relish in that – a little mild chaos always adds to the fun] I won’t dwell too much here, but the MUSIC!! I’ve only had the privilege of visiting once, but I treasure it, and the memory is still fresh in my head. You have to imagine as many gypsies that can afford to come, make their way down [or up] to enjoy their time together.  French, including the manouche, Romanian, Italian, Morroccan, Spanish, Turkish, Russian, Ukranian, Irish…  flamenco guitars [but of course], contra basses, violins, tablahs, dumbeks, flutes, tin whistles, fanfare brass, cajones, all kinds of things that shake & ring etc, etc, etc… sometimes in a pinch [which I’ve seen personally] an upside down ice bucket & a spoon – one must always keep the rhythm going!
In this clip [taken by my friends who attend every year] is Urz Karpatz, a favorite each year, but what surprised me was somewhere by the end [and off-camera the whole time I suspect!] was Manitas de Plata! a self-taught maestro of sorts, and the unofficial mayor of ‘Les Saintes’, as the locals call the town. That was quite a get, girls!  Manitas, nee Ricardo Baliardo, is an extraordinary gypsy-flamenco genius, and still performing at almost 93.  Whenever I hear about his soirees with Picasso, Dali, Brigitte Bardot, and so many more, I long for a time machine…
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 This was recorded the year I went – 2002 – by a dear friend who passed away a few years ago. This particular restaurant/bar/hotel is Les Vagues—a favorite hangout place for Manitas & his cousins & entourage in the Les Saintes right across the street from the sea — still can’t believe we had our own little session with the maestro himself:
still flirting, ever so charming… he even had Pikachu on his keychain – I suspect one of the grandkids hooked him up. haha
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Around the 19th of May or so, the cars & vans & trucks & caravans make their way, little by little into town. Apartments get rented out, parking lots fill up, vendors sell their wares—sometimes quite aggressively once they realize you’re not from ‘these parts’… every other corner or so musicians will gather, girls will dance, hats passed around filling up with Euros… if you settle into a nice spot at a café, you can witness all kinds of fun. The daytime hustle in Les Saintes is quite a spectacle, but then the night comes…. That’s when it all starts. All one really needs is a couple guitars, a few guys who really know how to play, because when one gets tired, he can hand it off to somebody else, and the crowd will come.  If there are tasty libations, all the better!
This little compilation captures some of the night time awesomeness:
more from my friends who manage to make the trip every year… even with a little bit of high jinx at the end – ah t’is quite a lovely shade of green I turn when I watch this stuff  😉
The cool part about the Camargue, this part of southern France, is that nearly everyone is related. The Baliardos & Reyes’, [think of the Gipsy Kings] distant cousins themselves, connect with the Soles’, who connect with the Regis’ who connect with Arenas’[and not necessarily in that order, but you get the gist] and practically everyone in between, and what you have here is ultimately la famille – family, and if you can hang, you sort of get adopted into the fold.  It’s a beautiful, musical, sometimes crazy thing! Can’t wait to go back…

About loosehandlebars

Experience has taught me wisdom, thank god I've got some life left I'm getting out of serfdom, my soul has stand the test. I need nothing to be a man because I was born a man and i deserve the right to live like any other man.

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