Just as American gospel musicians bring the music of Southern Baptist churches to the masses, the Perpignan-based gypsy band Tekameli shares the evangelical religion that many modern-day gypsies have adopted. Singing in both Catalan and Calo, the language of the gypsies, this band is like no other on the globe.
“In Calo, Tekameli means I like you, I want you, I love you,” said Jean Soler, guitarist and singer.
Soler started Tekameli in 1992 with Salomon Espinas and Julio Bermudez. Their deeply rhythmic, soulful songs speak of love of life, love of family and love of God.
Both Soler and Espinas grew up with fathers who worked in the church playing music and spreading the word of God. This had a heavy influence on their decision to become musicians and on the band’s musical style.
“I do this music because I want to give a peace and love message,” said Espinas, guitarist and singer. “I can express myself across the music.”
For many fans, listening to Tekameli can be an incredibly religious experience. Their music, which features beautiful melodies, heartfelt lyrics and expressive singing, teaches young and old the power of love and respect.
“We can touch the people, the heart of the people with this music,” said Soler. “And a lot of people cry when they listen to our music.”
Franck Noell, the band’s manager for the past 12 years, says his connection with Tekameli is more than just a job. “When I listen to this music, I feel something in my skin. I never feel this with another music.”
Tekameli’s music ranges from lively dance music to slow, heartfelt spirituals. The band can rally up a whole party to start clapping and dancing or take down the beat and speak of the true beauty in life.
Tekameli has close ties to the world-famous Gypsy Kings. Some of the band members of the two groups are related and the groups have played together at gypsy weddings and in large public performances. Both bands play the upbeat rumba style of gypsy music that the Gypsy Kings are best known for, but Tekameli specializes in more spiritual gypsy gospel music.
Soler feels that the Gypsy Kings’ style is more commercial than Tekameli’s, noting that his band sticks more to authentic gypsy music. “But, when they make new CD, I go to buy their CD, because I love it. even if it’s commercial style, because they are still The Gypsy Kings,” Soler said.
Though Tekameli doesn’t have the Gypsy Kings’ worldwide reputation, the band has performed at music festivals around Europe and Canada. “In Australia, we played eleven days with a full booked room in the Sydney Opera House,” Soler said. The band has yet to perform in the United States, although they hope to do so in the future.
Tekameli is currently working on their fourth album, the second they’ve self-produced; it’s due to come out in the next year.
Noell said he feels lucky to have been able to watch the band develop its unique style, while still sticking close to the gypsy roots they all grew up with. “This is the authentic message from love,” he said. “So if you feel this in your body, you feel happy.”
To follow up on their latest concerts and events, go to the band’s myspace page.