Wednesday, January 16, 2019

SearchResearch Challenge (1/16/19): Gipsy Kings questions--What language and what's that musical practice?

Welcome to 2019!  

A new year, with new Challenges and a few new ideas.  

First, a quick update on the book (The Joy of Finding Out):  I'm in the last couple of days of copyediting.  Then it goes back to the publisher so they can prepare the galleys.  (That's the full resolution printing of the book and the last possibility of an edit.)  THEN... off to printing!  We should get them by May or June.  I'll be sure to let you know when the book can be pre-ordered!  

On to our Challenge for this week... 

Late last year I went to see the Gipsy Kings in a concert at a winery in the hills over Silicon Valley.  It was a spectacular evening with brilliant music that's a blend of gypsy, flamenco, salsa, and pop--all  sung in Andalusian Spanish. 

Gipsy Kings in concert (Mountain Winery, August, 2018)  


They do have one song that baffles me.  It's Majiwi, which has the lyrics: 

     Wil Majiwi
     Wilana wil Majiwi wilmajai

I understand enough Spanish to know that this ain't Spanish.  So... 

1.  What language IS this lyric (Majiwi Majiwi...)?  

2.  As I was sitting in the concert, I was struck by the number of times they would sing in long, beautiful, intricate phrases, spending quite a while varying a single note up and down.  It occurred to me that this musical technique MUST have a name.  I'd like to know more about this practice, but to search for it, I need to know what to search for--so... what's this called? 

Here's a short sample of that musical effect that I include for illustrative purposes.  

MP3 file -- two samples of the mystery musical effect.  

What IS this called? 

As always, tell us HOW you figured this out?  Is there something we can learn from your searching?   (And be sure to tell us if you just knew it off the top of your head...)  

Have fun with this! 

Search on! 


  1. The language appears to be Urdu. I found this, less by search skills, more as an educated guess. The language did not seem European, so I figured it might be more Indo-European, given the gypsy roots. Trying some languages in Google translate brought me to Urdu.

    The technique is called melisma. This I found by googling for ‘flamenco singing techniques’. The second result is a pdf about the characteristics of flamenco singing, in which melisma is discussed.

  2. Hi Dan,

    In August 2005, when I was in second grade, hurricane Katrina ravaged the city of New Orleans. My family was quite lucky, since we lived in a higher-lying neighborhood relatively far from the levees or any breached canals. We were displaced for merely a couple months (staying with my uncle in Atlanta).

    Now I attend Tulane University (also in New Orleans). While I wasn't paying much attention in 2nd grade, I recently learned about how Tulane was affected by the storm. With dorms destroyed, they put students in a cruise ship while temporary ones were rebuilt. They had a very modified spring semester, which culminated in a 2006 commencement address from former presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush.

    This got me thinking. Tulane isn't the only University in New Orleans. Not to mention, its vast majority of students are out-of-state. What about my parents' alma mater, UNO?

    Who was the 2006 commencement speaker of the University of New Orleans?

    I really think this is an interesting search challenge. And it took several strategies I've learned from your blog to even come close to the answer.

    Thank you so much for reading/considering this. I love your blog.

    1. using [list of universities in New Orleans]
      haven't found 2006 speaker, but the 2018 one has a Google connection:
      Google engineer and University of New Orleans alumna Sabrina Farmer
      Ellen DeGeneres (UNO claims her as an alumnus also…) was at Tulane's 2006 commencement…
      the weather changed things…
      Katrina grads
      see the Katrina section…

    2. Thanks, Conrad. I'll put this in my list of possible future Challenges. (Students on a cruise ship? There's got to be some stories that came out of that!)

  3. Hello Dr. Russell and everyone!

    I am working on the Challenge and Q1 is harder than I thought.

    About Q2, I thought style was Flamenco (I know, to obvious, right?) Now, I need to Search On to find the real name of the style of that specific part

    1. It's a bit harder than you'd expect! Search on!

    2. Good Morning!

      Yes, a bit harder and so much more interesting.

      For Q1,

      Searched [wil majiwi wilana wil majiwi wilmajai gypsy kings language]

      Gipsy Kings:Majiwi Lyrics with traduction to Spanish from there, link took me to:
      Composed by Andre Reyes / Georges "Baule" Reyes / Nicolás Reyes

      Tried Google Translate with no results.

      [majiwi gipsy kings idioma]

      Reading says that they use a mix of languages. Even one invented by them in part due to being gypsies . However, needs confirmation.

      [que idioma canta Gipsy Kings] [What language sings Gipsy Kings]

      Mostly on Catalan and sometimes a mix of Provenza dialect “"Cantamos principalmente en catalán, pero muchas veces se trata de una mezcla del español y expresiones del dialecto del sur de Francia, de Provenza. Se debe a la manera nómada de vivir de los gitanos. Si nos quedáramos más tiempo en América, dentro de poco usaríamos palabras en inglés". “

      Also found
      Battle among Gipsy Kings / La guerra de los Gipsy Kings (2013) Interesting in the article: “En Francia en la Sacem, el organismo encargado de los derechos de autor de los músicos, tiene un departamento especializado en arte gitano” In France, there is a department specially for gipsy art.

      [Jondura flamenco]
      In Spanish: EL FLAMENCO . History, definitions and more.

      In the Wikipedia article, also in Spanish, mentions : Métricas y seguidillas “Algunas tonadas populares andaluzas, como los pregones, las nanas y campesinos cantos de trilla, tienen la misma métrica de las seguidillas flamencas. A partir de ellos pudo surgir la liviana y la serrana, que es una interpretación virtuosista y melismática de la liviana; de hecho, tradicionalmente se interpretan juntas. “ Also, classification according to “ la métrica de las coplas.” English version also talks about different melody styles.

  4. I think the "words" are in arabic. At least, so somebody on forum offers and further mentions that is not actually proper words. I believe its phonetically written. I have spent a lot of time this afternoon trying make my mic work. My plan was to talk the sounds into Translate and it might show the arabic scripts which could then be used to translate to english. I have get hold of kid to come over to show me why it won't work.

    The singing: would that be vibrato ? All I know about music I have gained from my association with a ukulele orchestra.

    jon tu

  5. Except for a few lines of English here and there, the Gipsy Kings sing in Gitane, their native Gipsy language. Gitane (which some people consider merely a dialect of Spanish) is a mixture of Spanish, French, and Catalan. Translate has never heard of it.

  6. used: [gitane language - Caló]
    now if I could just translate the 日本人 ;-]
    the G Reyes site
    Legend has it that one day a particularly enthusiastic fan asked their name. She commented that since Reyes means "kings" and because they were Gypsies, they should be Gypsy Kings. The name stuck, altho was misspelled Gipsy, with the "i" instead of "y"."

    on Wiki – and using ⌘F…
    Gitanos: see 8.18 Singers and musicians
    see image:
    ⌘F - image - G Kings from Wiki page on Gitanos

  7. Hi everybody. My guess for the lyrics would be some Maghreb dialect of Arabic but it isn't easy to find a definitive answer.

    As to the musical technique of several notes on a single syllable, I already knew it is called a melisma, but I tried a simple Google search: [ many notes ] and didn't even need to add anything, since the autocomplete suggestions were
    many notes sung on a single syllable
    many notes per syllable
    many notes sung to one syllable
    many notes sung to just one syllable

    I chose the first one and the first result is the Wikipedia article on melisma.

    1. Happy New Dark Year to you too, remmij. :)

      Mildly interesting: a Google Search by Image tells me that your rendition is "carving". (The original was perceived as "visual arts".)

    2. one day Google Search will know all and there will be little humor/mystery left on the mud-ball…
      you keep some interesting company — who says poster art can't still have more impact/influence than the Russians?
      …we keep falling into the future despite all efforts.
      stay frosty in PT ;•]
      the poster legacy