Sanda Weigl
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Sanda Weigl

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2001
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"Review Quotes"

With a voice distilled from a heavenly choir, her delicious contralto quivers with fortuitous tremolo as she conjures visions of the beautiful and the damned. History and life is so real, it is almost touch sensitive; the hot breath of her phrases and lines of pain are so shrill they pierce the heart like a million darts. Sanda's vocal gymnastics are as deep as the soul, and yet burn like tears streaming down cheeks, taut and afire with hurt.
This is music of unsurpassed beauty, manifest not only in the lyric that is expressed, but also in what is not sung: the profound emotions that become the heartstrings that Weigl plays with her subtle accents and in the myriad tones of the soul's stirring. Her harmony is in the subtle balancing of tensions and in the resolution or dénouement of her narratives. Both the elasticity as well as the sometime brittle emotions are the guided by the deceptive simplicity of the music, which becomes the guiding thread of her elevated song.

AllAboutJazz
RAUL D'GAMA ROSE,
Published: May 28, 2011


…Weigl sings in a voice and in a style that both evoke Edith Piaf in a Gypsy bar, and there's a general mood of longing and regret; … occasionally the light shines through, as on the sprightly and fun "Ani Mei Si Tineretea," and moments like that one give this album an unusual richness of emotional texture. Gypsy in a Tree …it's worth multiple listens.
Rick Anderson ALLMUSIC


In some ways the songs on this disc are the blues songs of the Roma… Much like blues musicians sing about misfortunes and bad times in an attempt to take some of the sting out of a people's bad experiences, Sanda does the same with her material… While those lyrics are potentially maudlin, listening to the sound of her 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. It's not just about this one incident, nor is it about feeling sorry for yourself, these songs are a way of making sure you don't brood about the bad things in life by proclaiming them to the sky and not letting them rule you…

While it may seem like an odd combination, a Romanian vocalist accompanied by three Japanese musicians, performing traditional Roma material, their approach has been the perfect combination of respect and experimentation to bring the songs to life. Of course, the combination of great songs, great musicians, and a spectacular vocalist is usually a winner, and that's the case here.

Richard Marcus – BC/blogcritics


If one wished to distinguish between a good entertainer and a genuine artist, Sanda Weigl would fall into the latter category. She sings songs with passion and intensity and can switch moods to convey many emotions. “Bilbao” was delivered with cynicism and harshness. In “Pirate Jenny” there was anger in the verses and yearning in the refrain as she imagined the ship in the harbor that would rescue her from drudgery; “September Song” conveyed melancholy as the seasons moved from spring to winter; and “I Am a Stranger Here Myself” was delivered with a lighter touch, even some whimsy. Some traditional Romanian songs, one of them sung a capella, demonstrated the range of her voice and its finely tuned vocal quality. Weigl’s looks were equally changeable, almost chameleon-like. The petite singer could seem impish or elfin-like, evoking images of the French sparrow. When angry or harsh, she seemed plain, but when her mood softened, she was pretty.

Barbara Leavy
Cabaret Scenes
October 7, 2010



Sanda Weigls Auftritt mit ihrer Band ist nicht genug zu preisen. Man weiß nicht, was man mehr loben soll, die Sängerin oder die Band mit japanischen Musikern aus New York. Sanda Weigls Kunst der Volksmusik als Jazz ist subtil und von brillanter Klarheit zugleich. Das Rumänisch, das sie singt, bietet lautmalerische Möglichkeiten, die es im Deutschen einfach nicht gibt. So wird der Gesang zum Glucksen, zum echoartigen Rufen, zum Schmerzens- und Lustlaut. Vokale und Konsonanten werden gegurgelt und geflötet. Es knackt und dehnt sich. Auf kunstvolle Weise wird Volksmusik mit extended vocal technics angereichert, um doch nur die Ursprünge des Gesangs in Erinnerung zu rufen.

Torsten Flüh, Night Out In Berlin, Germany


19.11.2010


…Weigl is tiny, Edith Piaf-sized, with a similar contralto that if anything is just as subtle: she worked the corners of the songs, holding back until she really needed to hammer a point home, and then she’d cut loose…
…The madness of the music made a delicious contrast with the steely, often stoic intensity of Weigl’s vocals. One of the early numbers in the set sounded like a cocek dance; a lost-love lament (one of several, it seems) had more of a Weimar blues/noir cabaret feel.

Lucid Culture
Pingback by Trouble in Tribeca : Greg Harness

More than most jazz vocalists, Sanda Weigl and her music represent an intersection of socio-­political revolution and cultural awareness that began for many in the ‘60s. Arriving in the early ‘90s she was a seminal figure in bringing Eastern European music, from her native Romania, into the creative fabric of the downtown scene through her collaborations with pianist Anthony Coleman and others.
Elliot Simon The New York City Jazz Records




Sanda and her Japanese musicians are a symbolic “product” for the benefits to art resulting from mixing a variety of musical accents. They perform in a construction which uses the rhythms of traditional Romanian music as a point of departure, interwoven with Romanian Gypsy music, thus finding the definitive note within itself.

A music which mixes traditional inflections with the avant-garde sound of jazz and the biting sonorities of the cabaret – a sonorous cultural puzzle able to reach the ears of many, since everyone finds something fascinating to discover hidden within.

The project presents an artist who, like others who took leave of Romanian culture, returns after a period of soul-searching, to that wealth which constitutes a bridge reaching to the entire world.

Cristina Modreanu – Bucharest


To call Weigl's voice "powerful" would be an understatement. She has an impressive vocal range. Her range, timbre and declamatory style makes for an intriguing presentation of passion and even sexuality that is a synthesis of male and female. She adopts a male persona in at least four of the songs. For example "Cintec din Oas," which presents the "desperate cries of a man rejected and betrayed by all the women in the world".
Her interpretations are dramatic, even theatrical, but never "over the top". A comparison with Diamanda Galas might have some resonance, but Weigl's purpose is not to shock, but rather to communicate the vibrant life force inherent in the music. Which she does admirably, with an energy and panache that speaks of her intimate familiarity with the material…
Always though, it comes back to Weigl's extraordinary voice. And if you're a fan of vocal ethnic music of any sort, that's something you don't want to miss.

Reviewer: Bill Tilland , BBC World Music - Various


"Gypsy in a Tree - Review"

Sanda Weigl was born in Bucharest, Romania and spent her childhood steeped in the traditional songs and melodies of the Roma (or Gypsy) people. But as an adolescent she found herself in political exile in East Germany, absorbing the musical culture of Berlin's theater district, where she came to love the music of Brecht and Weill. Another displacement came when she was expelled as an enemy of the East German state and settled on the other side of the city for a time before finally relocating to New York, where she gravitated to the downtown scene and helped introduce such local celebrities as guitarist Marc Ribot and reedman Doug Wieselman to the rich heritage of Roma music. On Gypsy in a Tree you can clearly hear all of the influences of her past: there is a definite Brecht/Weill tinge to "Intr-o Zi la Poarta Mea" and a strong undertow of tango rhythms on both "Saraiman" and "Nu Exista-n Lumea Asta," while the album-closing "Alomalo" sounds like a polka as written by Ennio Morricone for a surrealist Western, and "Jandarmul" combines a dreamily arrhythmic jazz progression with a desultory tabla beat. Throughout the album, Weigl sings in a voice and in a style that both evoke Edith Piaf in a Gypsy bar, and there's a general mood of longing and regret; but occasionally the light shines through, as on the sprightly and fun "Ani Mei Si Tineretea," and moments like that one give this album an unusual richness of emotional texture. Gypsy in a Tree …it's worth multiple listens.

Rick Anderson ALLMUSIC.COM - ALL MUSIC .COM


"Goings On About Town: Night Life Sanda Weigl"

Goings On About Town: Night Life
Sanda Weigl



April 22: The Bucharest-born singer Sanda Weigl celebrates the release of “Gypsy in a Tree,” her second album of Romanian Gypsy traditionals. Weigl first heard Gypsy music as a young girl outside the police station across the street from her home, where Gypsy families would camp, sometimes for days, awaiting the release of loved ones. Though Weigl herself is not Roma, her life has been similarly nomadic. In the early sixties, exiled with her family from Romania, she settled in East Berlin and studied theatre and singing with her aunt, Helene Weigel, Bertolt Brecht’s widow. She later joined a state-sanctioned rock band called Team 4 (the group included a future East German deputy minister of culture) and in 1968 was arrested for protesting the Soviet invasion of Prague. Sentenced to prison, she was eventually expelled from East Germany and moved to West Berlin, where she worked in the theatre with Robert Wilson, among others. In the early nineties, with Wilson’s encouragement, Weigl relocated to New York and began performing Gypsy songs around town with an assortment of excellent downtown musicians. Her new record combines tasteful restraint and occasional pugnaciousness.

The New Yorker, April 25,2011 - The New Yorker


"Gypsy in a Tree - Live - Review"

Sanda Weigls Auftritt mit ihrer Band ist nicht genug zu preisen. Man weiß nicht, was man mehr loben soll, die Sängerin oder die Band mit japanischen Musikern aus New York. Sanda Weigls Kunst der Volksmusik als Jazz ist subtil und von brillanter Klarheit zugleich. Das Rumänisch, das sie singt, bietet lautmalerische Möglichkeiten, die es im Deutschen einfach nicht gibt. So wird der Gesang zum Glucksen, zum echoartigen Rufen, zum Schmerzens- und Lustlaut. Vokale und Konsonanten werden gegurgelt und geflötet. Es knackt und dehnt sich. Auf kunstvolle Weise wird Volksmusik mit extended vocal technics angereichert, um doch nur die Ursprünge des Gesangs in Erinnerung zu rufen.

Torsten Flüh, Night Out In Berlin, Germany - Night Out in Berlin


"Gypsy in a Tree Review"

By
RAUL D'GAMA ROSE,
Published: May 28, 2011
Cover Art
Anyone who has lived the myriad lives of the Diaspora as Sanda Weigl has, is qualified to speak for the generations of pain and joy, torture and triumph of human life that has come to pass for her people, and the Gypsies as well. Fleeing the repressive regime of Romania and falling afoul of the even more dictatorial post-war East Germany, she was jailed, gagged and just about forced to live the Gypsy life herself, until she left Europe altogether. Impossibly heartbroken at one stage, she was, however, steeped in the mystery and magic of Romani. In New York of the 1990s, she began to flower again, singing her heart out about love and loss, repression and freedom. This extraordinary musician has found herself once more on Gypsy in a Tree, an album of exceeding beauty, whose metaphor references the "invisible" gypsy, ensconced in a tree out of sight at weddings he or she was forced to serenade provided they were unseen, yet heard.

With a voice distilled from a heavenly choir, her delicious contralto quivers with fortuitous tremolo as she conjures visions of the beautiful and the damned. History and life is so real, it is almost touch sensitive; the hot breath of her phrases and lines of pain are so shrill they pierce the heart like a million darts. Sanda's vocal gymnastics are as deep as the soul, and yet burn like tears streaming down cheeks, taut and afire with hurt. "As Ofta Sa-Mi Iasa Focul" is a love song, poured like that liquid fire down the throat of lovers, not only by the lyrics expounded but by a voice that heats up like an unbridled flame. On "Toderel" she sings of the sunset of life with a naked fear and elemental sadness, still recalling the pride of youthful prowess, as Dersu Uzala voiced in Akira Kurosawa's film of the same name. Mere mortals do not sound this perceptive: vocal visionaries do, and Sanda is certainly one, like the great Colombian chanteuse, Lucia Pulido, Persian singer Sussan Deyhim, or Ethiopia's Ejigayehu, "Gigi" Shibabaw.

This is music of unsurpassed beauty, manifest not only in the lyric that is expressed, but also in what is not sung: the profound emotions that become the heartstrings that Weigl plays with her subtle accents and in the myriad tones of the soul's stirring. Her harmony is in the subtle balancing of tensions and in the resolution or dénouement of her narratives. Both the elasticity as well as the sometime brittle emotions are the guided by the deceptive simplicity of the music, which becomes the guiding thread of her elevated song. Bassist Stomu Takeishi and his twin, the itinerant percussionist Satoshi Takeishi make exquisite contributions throughout, as do pianist Shoko Nagai, tuba player, Ben Stapp and the beautiful moaning of Douglas Wieselman on clarinet. Despite the inscrutable lyricism and foreignness of the Romanian, the music of this album remains one of the most monumental achievements in recent memory.

Track Listing: Intr-o Zi La Poarta Mea; Un Tigan Avea O Casa; As Ofta Sa-Mi Iasa Focul; Saraiman; Adu Calu' Sa Ma Duc; Anii Mei Si Tinteretea; Jandarmul; Nu Exista-N Lumea Asta; Toderel; Dans; Alomalo.

Personnel: Sanda Weigl: vocals; Shoko Nagai: piano, accordion, farfisa; Stomu Takeishi: electric bass; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion; Douglas Wieselman: guitar, clarinet; Ben Stapp: tuba.

Record Label: Barbes Records - All About Jazz


"Gypsy in a Tree 2"

Sanda Weigl: Gypsy in a Tree (2011)
By
C. MICHAEL BAILEY,
Published: February 17, 2011
Sanda Weigl: Gypsy in a Tree Romanian singer Sanda Weigl's story is a harrowing one that spans the full length of the Cold War, from pre-Ceausescu Romania to communist East Berlin to West Berlin before arriving most recently in New York City, at a time when many Gotham musicians were investigating Eastern European influences in Western music, making her expertise in Gypsy music immediately popular. A lifelong fan of Romanian Gypsy music, Weigl drank deep from all its influences, pouring her lifetime of musical and political experiences first into 2002's Gypsy Killer (Knitting Factory), and now Gypsy in a Tree.

What follows is exciting a collection of music of any kind, that could be hoped for. Weigl employs an unlikely band of Japanese multi-instrumentalists in brilliantly updating eleven traditional Gypsy songs, raising them easily into chamber art. While her Japanese cohorts might seem a strange fit, they are not so strange in the light of the success of Maasaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan has had presenting Bach Cantatas over the past 20 years. No, these guys are the crack-real thing.

Immediately evident is the oom-pah of Eastern Europe, propelled with great finesse by electric bassist Stomu Takeishi, who really puts the spit-shine on these pieces. His elastic burping presence in "Un Tagan Avea O Casa" ("A Gypsy Had a House") walks a fast 4/4 when not scaling those craggy Roma rhythms. Pianist Shoko Nagai and clarinetist Douglas Wieselman wax avant- garde jazz in their respective solo outings on the piece. This daring musicianship informs all of the pieces on this recording, never clouding the authentic with new-fangledness or novelty.

In "As Ofta Sa-Mi Isa Focul" ("I Would Sigh"), Weigl sings "I sigh to let out the fire of my love," in this lilting ballad that concludes with the anxious "Last night if I wouldn't have sighed / I wouldn't have survived to the next day / If I wouldn't have smoked / I would have gone crazy," capturing the sweet torture of desire. "Anii Mei Si Tineretea" ("The Years of My Youth") demonstrates this same confident passion, Weigl proclaiming, "I want to die while loving / and forget everything else," again honoring the in-the-moment personality of these songs.

This music is like nothing else. Weigl's Japanese trio weave a spun web of platinum upon which Weigl lays these rich and old songs. This music arrives out of East German Jewish melodies mixed with Weimar-period Berlin cabaret. It is full of life, love, lust, family—all those things that are good.


Track Listing: Intr-o zi la poarta mea; Sun tigan avea o casa; As ofta sa-mi iasa focul; Saraiman; Adu calul sa ma duc; Anii mei si tineretea; Jandarmul; Nu exista-n lumea asta; Toderel; Dans; Alomalo.

Personnel: Sanda Weigl: vocals; Douglas Wieselman :guitar, clarinet; Shoko Nagai: accordion, piano, Farfisa; Ben Stapp: tuba; Stomu Takeishi: electric bass; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion.

Record Label: Barbes Records - All About Jazz


"GYPSY KILLER"

Romanian expat sings traditional gypsy songs. Dramatic, passionate and sometimes...

Bill Tilland 2002

Romanian expatriate vocalist Sanda Weigl has quite a personal history. She first learned gypsy songs as a child and found early success as a child star on Romanian national television. Later she was a rock singer in East Berlin, and was tossed into prison for protesting against the communist regime. In the 1990s she moved to New York and recently began performing again. This album is a collaboration with a number of downtown NYC's finest, including pianist Anthony Coleman, guitarist Marc Ribot, and the peerless Glen Velez on hand percussion.

To call Weigl's voice "powerful" would be an understatement. She has an impressive vocal range. Her range, timbre and declamatory style makes for an intriguing presentation of passion and even sexuality that is a synthesis of male and female. She adopts a male persona in at least four of the songs. For example "Cintec din Oas," which presents the "desperate cries of a man rejected and betrayed by all the women in the world".

Her interpretations are dramatic, even theatrical, but never "over the top". A comparison with Diamanda Galas might have some resonance, but Weigl's purpose is not to shock, but rather to communicate the vibrant life force inherent in the music. Which she does admirably, with an energy and panache that speaks of her intimate familiarity with the material.

Much credit is due also to Anthony Coleman's sensitive arrangements. The opening track, "Trenule masina mica," pretty much consists of Weigl's voice and Velez' accompaniment on hand drums, but Coleman slips in an almost imperceptible drone halfway through the piece, and then a soft, skeletal piano counterpoint for a few stanzas. It's very simple, but also hauntingly effective.

The traditional Romanian cimbalom (dulcimer or zither) is the sole accompaniment on the dramatic and stately "Cine iubeste si lasa." The table-thumping "Ciulenadra, described as "possibly the most popular song in Romania", is at the other end of the scale. A full ensemble goes full tilt, starting with a small string section, accordion and then swooping trombones and a squealing clarinet, as the pace of the piece doubles and then doubles again before ending in a wild frenzy.

Always though, it comes back to Weigl's extraordinary voice. And if you're a fan of vocal ethnic music of any sort, that's something you don't want to miss.

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Various - Rough Guide to Hungarian Music - BBC


"Sanda Weigl Brings Gypsy Music To The U.S."

Sanda Weigl's life is larger than the gypsy lore reflected in her songs.

Weigl was born in Romania and began her musical career in a state-sponsored East German rock band called Team 4. As a teenager in 1968, she was jailed for subversive actions against the communist regime, then forced to work in a labor camp, then kicked out of East Germany completely. And that's just one chapter.

Today, she lives up to her nickname — the Downtown Gypsy Queen of New York — singing in cabarets across the U.S. as part of a Romanian cultural outreach campaign. She says that her current touring band, an all-Japanese trio simply called Band, plays Romanian gypsy music better than most Romanian musicians today.

A Childhood Passion

Weigl's passion for traditional Romanian songs came from experiences she'd had as a child, listening to the beautiful songs sung by gypsies living near her home. Her own family is Jewish, but these songs held her interest throughout her life.

"Cintec din Oas," a song from her album Gypsy Killer, is a tale of a man with very bad luck in love.

"That's the cry of a man who never gets a woman," Weigl says. "And the only one he got once in his life, she betrayed him right away and threw him out of her house. So he's really crying and screaming, 'I would do anything to get a woman.'" The song caught her interest because of its irony, a storytelling quality for which Weigl professes a fondness.

Not all of her songs are melancholic. Another one, "Ciuleandra" — the most popular song in Romania now — is more of a dance song.

"It's a shouting song," Weigl says. "'So come on! Dance, move, move, move around!' That's what it says."

A Home In New York

After living all over the world, and at times fleeing from persecution, Weigl now calls New York home.

"It's really the only place on earth I really feel at home," she says. "In Germany, I was always a stranger. Always. Only when I came to New York, all of a sudden I was a human being, not a stranger. Not this or that. I was just me. Myself. Sanda. And I was respected and accepted as Sanda. That's what I love about it. It's beautiful." - NPR


Discography

2002 Gypsy Killer [ Oriente ]
2011 Gypsy in a Tree [ Oriente + barbesrecords ]

Photos

Bio

Living an extraordinary life doesnt necessarily lead a musician to create extraordinary music, but Sanda Weigls journey through the roiling cauldron of the 20th century has resulted in a gripping, drama-drenched sound steeped in ancient tradition yet bracingly contemporary. 

From Iron Curtain rock n roll renegade to political prisoner to Downtown darling who brought the music of the Gypsies to New York Citys avant-garde jazz scene, the Bucharest-born Sanda is a singular artist who has gracefully traversed a bloody and treacherous stretch of history. Steeped in the theatrical techniques and music of Bertolt Brecht, she's a live-wire performer whose evocative vocals reveal the emotional essence of a lyric so vividly one needn't understand the language to comprehend the message.

Sanda learned many of the songs as a child on the streets of Bucharest, but she gleaned others on a 2004 trip to the Transylvania countryside where she gathered a fresh batch of traditional songs. Singing in Romanian, she interprets the darkly humorous, often fatalistic lyrics with passionate intensity.  The songs express the kind of longing, passion, and bone-deep sense of resignation often found in the blues, and like the blues, the celebratory public act of performing the music works as a salve against oppression and the vicissitudes of fate

Sanda's family was forced into exile in the early 1960s, due to persecution by the harsh communist regime in Romania.  They settled in East Berlin, joining her aunt Helene Weigel. Bertolt Brecht's widow and director of the Berliner Ensemble, Weigel immersed her niece in the innovative musical and theatrical world of Brecht and Weill. Sanda put her training to use a few years later when she joined the popular rock band Team 4.

Her insistence at sharing her passion for Roma music gained traction when the 17-year-old Sanda won a gold medal at Dresdens International Song Festival with a riveting performance of the Gypsy song Recruti. But her career in East Germany was cut short when East Bloc tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in 1968 to put an end to the liberalizing Prague Spring. Joining an underground student group to protest the Prague occupation and the governments repressive rule, she was arrested and sentenced to two and a half years in prison (though international pressure led the government to replace prison time with hard labor).

Barred from performing, Sanda once again found herself forced to leave her home when East Germany expelled her as an enemy of the state. Landing in West Berlin, she reinvented herself at the Schiller Theater, where she worked with a glittering cast of directors and performers, including the celebrated playwright/actor Klaus Pohl (whom she married) and Robert Wilson. It was through Wilson and Tom Waits The Black Rider that Sanda returned to her first love, as she recruited the productions musicians for her band and returned to singing Romanian Gypsy songs. With Wilsons support, Sanda and Pohl ended up moving to New York City in the early 1990s, another relocation that took her by surprise.

She may not have aspired to Gotham, but she arrived at a propitious moment, as many Downtown musicians were exploring Eastern European musical styles. Sanda has also explored the expressionist cabaret music of Weimar Berlin, particularly Kurt Weill. Whatever her repertoire, her music has moved audiences around the world, including a heralded performance of her Gypsy and cabaret songbooks at the Pina Bausch Festival in Wuppertal, Germany. She has played sold-out theaters and major events such as the Forum International in Monterrey, Mexico, the Ringling International Arts Festival ( the Baryshnikov Arts Center), the Jewish Music Festival in Krakow, Poland, and the Nobel Prize Celebration In Stockholm, Sweden.

 



Band Members