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Sanda Weigl: Gypsy in a Tree

Sanda Weigl: Gypsy in a Tree

March 10, 2022

Sanda Weigl celebrates the 10th anniversary release of the seminal album, Gypsy in a Tree, a stunning vocal delivery of Romanian folk and Gypsy songs layered with the soul, jazz and brilliant avant-garde precision by long time collaborators Shoko Nagai, Satoshi Takeishi and Stomu Takeishi.

"… reinventing the music of her Romanian roots, Sanda and her savvy cohorts infuse the music with an international array of influences, as if continuing the Gypsies wanderings into new and unexpected lands. It’s folkloric music for the Internet age, pulsing with the blood and tears of Romanian soil, but wafted along by hints of klezmer, tango, cumbia, jazz and soul… these guys are the crack-real thing." - All About Jazz

Born in Bucharest, Romania, Sanda became a child star singing folk and Gypsy songs learned from street singers and from recordings of the legendary Maria Tanase. Political persecution forced the family to move to East Berlin, where they reunited with Helene Weigel, Bertolt Brecht's wife and director of the Berliner Ensemble. Sanda was immersed in the Brecht-Weill tradition and Hans Eisler, later meeting Lotte Lenya and studying with Helene. As a teenager Sanda was a rock singer in East Berlin, and was tossed into prison for protesting against the communist regime. She was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. International outcry against the government's treatment of the teenage group led to her release, but Sanda nevertheless endured years of hard labor on an assembly line and was barred from public performance.

Expelled to West Germany as an enemy of the State, another chapter began at the Schiller Theater and in West Berlin, a hotbed of many of the world's important directors and performers, where she worked with Luc Bondy, Juergen Flimm, Peter Zadek, Pina Bausch, Nina Hagen, and Robert Wilson . As assistant director on Robert Wilson's 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 folk Gypsy music for critically acclaimed concerts throughout Europe.

With the encouragement of Robert Wilson, Sanda moved to New York. Composer Anthony Coleman became producer and arranger for her first US recording, Gypsy Killer, a tribute to her formative influence: the songs of the Bucharest streets. Coleman's unique perspective on Eastern European music, encompassing the rawest folksong to the most esoteric branches of the avant-garde, created a new sound-world for Sanda's voice and her cherished material and introduced her with the players who would become the nucleus of the magnificent ensemble on the album: Marc Ribot, Glen Velez, Doug Wieselman, Brad Jones, and Noah Hoffeld.

Later Sanda spent transformative time in Romania re exploring the 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 refreshing the repertoire and developing the material for what would result in the critically acclaimed Gypsy in a Tree, with a new ensemble including Shoko Nagai , Satoshi Takeishi, Stomu Takeishi.The innovative and explosive Gypsy in a Tree concert debuted at the prestigious Ruhr Triennale Festival in Duisburg, Germany. Representing a profoundly original take on music drawn from a neglected source, Sanda's presentation of the new recordings, within the broader context of jazz, avant-garde, blues and world music, shows not only an extraordinary aesthetic achievement but a cultural one: the music suggests parallels to other neglected and downtrodden groups and cultures, bringing understanding and compassion. And the musicians, Shoko (piano and accordion), Stomu (electric bass) and Satoshi (percussion) with their superb backing, are completely emotionally synched to the songs, readily heightening the impact of Sanda's voice. Sanda and her ensemble have performed Gypsy in a Tree and an impressive, expanded repertoire throughout the world and are currently working on a new album.

"…the blues songs of the Roma…listening to the sound of Sanda’s voice as she sings them, you experience something similar to what you feel when listening to a great blues singer sing about her man doing her wrong…

Of course, the combination of great songs, great musicians, and a spectacular vocalist is usually a winner, and that's the case here." - blogcritics.org

Footage of the first performance of what would become GYPSY IN A TREE

The concert is supported by the Romanian Cultural Institute NY


Photo credit: Courtesy the artist


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THU 03/10 9:30 PM