GYPSY IN A TREE
ROMANIAN GYPSY JAZZ SINGER SANDA WEIGL & BAND
Romanian-born singer Sanda Weigl, internationally celebrated for her potent, contemporary interpretation of Romanian gypsy music, will embark on her first U.S. tour this fall.
The first concert is scheduled at MIT’s Wong Auditorium/Tang Center (Cambridge, MA) on October 14, 2008, and is organized in collaboration with the Romanian Student Association at MIT. Other stops are Chicago’s Morse Theatre, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (in collaboration with the Romanian Student Club at UIUC), and Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA.
Her ensemble will include Shoko Nagai - Piano, Accordion, Arrangements; Stomu Takeishi - Bass (Oct 14); Kermit Driscoll, Bass (Oct 24 & Nov); and Satoshi Takeishi - Percussion.
“... [Sanda Weigl] has kept New Yorkers enthralled with a steady stream of the Romanian Gypsy songs that she learned on the streets of Bucharest in her youth.” The New Yorker, May 2008
“To call Sanda’s voice ‘powerful’ would be an understatement…Her interpretations are dramatic, even theatrical, but never ‘over the top’... If you’re a fan of vocal ethnic music of any sort, that’s something you don’t want to miss.” Bill Tilland, BBC
The Romanian Cultural Institute’s Director Corina Suteu says, “We are so excited to be promoting these world-music events with Sanda. It is not only Sanda's superb new reading of traditional songs that is altogether unexpected; it’s the intriguing encounter between her and her musicians’ different musical traditions. What results for a Romanian is a feeling you’re listening for the first time; Romanians and non-Romanians alike will be astonished by how well the musicians managed to capture and communicate the essence of each song so well.”
Sanda’s concert trio is a reflection of her innovative ideas. Her frequent percussionist, Satoshi Takeishi, has explored improvisational, electronic and multi-cultural sounds in South America, the Middle East and the U.S. Some of Satoshi ‘s collaborations include: Ray Barretto, Francisco Zumaque, Eliane Elias, Randy Brecker, Mark Murphy, Erik Friedlander , Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band, and Joe Zeytoonian. Takeishi collaborator, Pianist Shoko Nagai, has worked with John Zorn, Rasheid Ali, Butch Morris, Cuong Vu, Matana Roberts, Ikue Mori, and Miho Hatori to name only a few. She is a also a film composer and improvisational artist. Stomu Takeishi has been the bassist for many adventurous composer/improvisers including Henry Threadgill, Paul Motian,and David Tronzo. Bassist Kermit Driscoll has recorded and performed with many renowned artists including: Bill Frisell, Patti Austin, Chet Baker, John Cale, The New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur, Buddy Rich, Toots Thielmans, and Mel Torme.
Sanda was born in Bucharest, where she began her career as a child star on Romanian national television, singing Gypsy songs learned from street singers and from recordings of the legendary Maria Tanase.
When Sanda was thirteen, political persecution forced the family to move to East Berlin. There her father was reunited with his only surviving relative, Helene Weigel, Bertolt Brecht's widow and director of the Berliner Ensemble. Sanda was immersed in the Brecht/Weill tradition, meeting Lotte Lenya and studying with Helene.
While a teenager, Sanda joined the state-sponsored rock band Team 4, lead by future East German Deputy Minister of Culture Hartmut Koenig. Team 4's song “Der Abend ist gekommen," sung by Sanda, hit number one on the charts and epitomized the swinging sixties, East Berlin style, with its driving pre-Krautrock sound. Though she was one of the first rock stars in East Germany, the songs of her youth in Bucharest still gripped her. At the age of seventeen, Sanda's performance of “Recruti," a Gypsy song still in her repertoire today, won her the gold medal at the International Song Festival in Dresden.
At the height of Team 4's success, Sanda became embroiled in the political unrest of 1968. In protest against the East German army's participation in the Prague invasion, Sanda formed an underground activist group, distributing subversive pamphlets throughout East Berlin. Her involvement with the most radical element of East Germany's dissident community brought her to the attention of the authorities. She was arrested and sentenced to two and half years in prison. International outcry against the government's harsh treatment of the teenage group led to her release from jail, but Sanda still endured three years of hard labor on an assembly line and was barred from public performance for six years.
Labeled an enemy of the state, Sanda was expelled to West Germany, where she started her second career in the Schiller Theater in West Berlin. Her work in the theater included collaborations with many of the most world's important directors and performers, including Luc Bondy, Juergen Flimm, and Peter Zadek. Sanda married dramatist/actor Klaus Pohl, with whom she worked extensively as he became one Germany's leading theater artists. She was assistant director on three of Robert Wilson's pieces,"Civil Wars, Hamlet Machine, and Parsifal.
Theater work drew Sanda back to music. The musicians from the Robert Wilson /Tom Waits piece The Black Rider became Sanda's band as she delved back into her beloved Romanian Gypsy music for critically acclaimed concerts in Hamburg.
With the help and encouragement of Robert Wilson, Sanda and Klaus emmigrated to New York, where Sanda began to explore the downtown music world. At a David Byrne concert at the Knitting Factory, she was reunited with her childhood friend violinist Alexander Balanescu, leading to performances of Romanian Gypsy music with the Balanescu String Quartet in London and Hamburg.
Sanda then met composer Anthony Coleman, who became producer and arranger for her first recording since Team 4, her ultimate tribute to her formative influence: the Gypsy songs of the Bucharest streets. Coleman's unique perspective on East European music, encompassing the rawest folksong to the most esoteric branches of the avant-garde, created anew sound-world for Sanda's voice and her cherished material.
He also brought in many of New York's greatest musicians, including Glen Velez and Marc Ribot, and introduced her to the players who would become the nucleus of her new and magnificent ensemble (Anthony Coleman, Alex Fedoriouk, Curtis Hasselbring, Brad Jones, Ted Reichman, Roberto Rodriguez, and Doug Wieselman). This band quickly became a sensation in New York's downtown clubs, including the Knitting Factory, Tonic, BAM Cafe,a sold-out concert at the critically acclaimed Balkan Cabaret series at Exit Art, and another concert in the JVC Jazz Festival.
She began work on her next project, a return to another great influence of her youth, the cabaret music of Weimar Berlin, including of course Kurt Weill as well as lesser-known composer Mischa Spoliansky. Sanda returned to Europe in fall 2001 at the invitation of Pina Bausch to bring together her Gypsy and cabaret songbooks at the Pina Bausch Festival in Wuppertal, where she also performed in Bausch's version of The Seven Deadly Sins. The band also performed concerts in Hamburg, Germany.
In April and May 2002 Sanda participated at the acclaimed program of contemporary cabaret performers at NEUE GALERIE NEW YORK- New Museum for German and Austrian Art. Her debut album Gypsy Killer [Knitting Factory] was released in July, 2002. Throughout the summer of 2002 and 2003, Sanda toured throughout Europe to sold out performances. Her electrifying appearance at the TheatreSpektakel in Zürich reached audiences of over 1500.
In September 2003, Sanda with husband and playwright, Klaus Pohl premiered their play Canary, at the prestigious Theater an der Josephstadt in Vienna, Austria. The show has enjoyed enormous critical acclaim and a sold-out status since its opening. A future American production is planned for the 2004-05 season at the Culture Project @ 45 Bleecker in New York.
In 2004 Sanda spent an enticing time in Romania exploring the Roma culture by delving deep into Transylvania. Traveling to unmapped towns and villages, Sanda sought out and found a treasure trove of new material and collaborators for her next album, Gypsy in a Tree. Sanda has also reshaped her band to include: Anthony Coleman, piano, Brad Jones, bass, Doug Wieselman, clarinet,guitar, horns and Satoshi Takeishi, hand percussion. Sanda’s future as always, offers extremely innovative and promising projects including: participating at the prestigious 2005 and 2007 Ruhr Triennale in Germany.She resides in New York City and in Vienna,Austria.
Sanda Weigl's website: www.sandaweigl.com
TUE, October 14, 8 pm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
WONG AUDITORIUM, Tang Center
70 Memorial Dr., Cambridge, MA 02139 (directions)
Admission: $15 at door
FRI, October 24, 7:30 pm
1328 Morse Avenue
Chicago, IL 60626
FRI, November 7, 7 pm
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
LINCOLN HALL THEATRE
400 Student Services Building
610 E. John St., Champaign, IL
November (date tba)
Palo Alto, CA
Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
200 East 38th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA