B i o g r a p h y
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, Germany.
With the help and encouragement of Robert Wilson, Sanda moved to New York, where she began to explore the downtown music world.
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, Doug Wieselman, Brad Jones, Satoshi Takeishi). Sanda and her band quickly became a sensation in New York's downtown clubs, including Barbes, Drom, BAM Cafe, Cornelia Street Café and sold-out concerts at the critically acclaimed Balkan Cabaret series at Exit Art, and another concert in the JVC Jazz Festival.
She began work on new projects and a returned to another great influence of her youth, the cabaret music of Weimar Berlin, including Kurt Weill. Sanda returned to Europe at the invitation of Pina Bausch to bring together her Gypsy and cabaret songbooks at the Pina Bausch Festival in Wuppertal. The band also performed concerts in Hamburg, Germany.
Since 2002 Sanda is a regular 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 TheatreSpektakle in Zürich reached audiences of over 1500 as well as her performance at the prestigious Jazz Festival in Moers, Germany.
In 2004 and 2005 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 refreshing the repertoire and developing the critically acclaimed , Gypsy in a Tree, with her reshaped band including: Anthony Coleman, piano, Greg Cohen, bass, Doug Wieselman, clarinet, guitar and Satoshi Takeishi, hand percussion. The innovative Gypsy in a Tree debuted at the prestigious Ruhr Triennale Festival in Duisburg, Germany , was performed in New York, at the Music Festival in Krakow, Poland – where it reached audiences of over 20.000 in 2006.
In 2006, Sanda was invited to participate in the outrageously successful Weimar-New York show at the sold-out Spiegeltent . Her captivating performance leads to more invitations in 2008 and 2009.
In 2007, Sanda was once again sought out by the 2007 Ruhr Triennale and its celebrated Director, Jurgen Flimm. Embarking on an ambitious commission, Sanda, in collaboration with Composer Anthony Coleman, conceptualized and arranged a vocal-musical performance based on the texts of Middle Ages German lyric poet Walther von der Vogelweide [1170-1230]. Dubistmeinichbindein - Yesterday ’s Tomorrow – The Songs of Walther von der Vogelweide, was a astounding critical success with it’s remarkable post~modern sensibility and singular vision.
In October/November of 2007 Sanda celebrated a triumphant return to her native Romania performing her programme of Romanian Gypsy and German cabaret songs in theaters throughout the country; again, to extraordinary critical and public acclaim who dub her “The Edith Piaf of Romania Gypsy songs”. The show then traveled to The Forum of International Culture held in Monterrey, Mexico where it received equal praise.
Due to the great success of her comeback tour in Romania, Sanda was invited for another tour of Romanian Gypsy repertoire in March 2008 and with the support of the Romanian Culture Institute in New York, she presented her dynamic tour-de-force in North America in Fall 2008.
In Oct 2008 she was presented by NPR’s weekend edition of Scott Simon.
In December 2009 Sanda & The Takeishis were invited to perform at the Nobel Prize Celebration for the German-Romanian writer Herta Müller in Stockholm,Sweden.
In 2010 Sanda & The Takeishis were guests of the Ringling International Festival in Sarasota, Florida – the festival organized by the Baryshnikov Art Center and performed there 3 sould out shows.
In November 2010 Sanda & The Takeishis played sold out concerts in Germany at the Academie Der Künste in Berlin and at the Liederhalle Stuttgart with Herta Müller introducing their performances.
She is a regular at the Cabaret series of the illustre Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie in New York, at Joe’s Pub and at Barbes, Brooklyn among other venues around the city.
In October 2011 she did embark on a tour in Israel and in July 2011 she was invited by the Permaent Mission of Germany at the UN to perform at the MoMa for the event of Germany leading the Security Counsel in 2011.
In addition to her regulary concerts in NYC Sanda in 2013 performed in Bucharest, Romania with the Balanescu String Quartett and in 2015 she will embark on different tours throughout Germany, Austria, Romania and other parts of the world.