Andrea Gerak an awesome, nearly unbelievable voice

Istvan Tamas met Andrea Gerak at 11th Borsod Arts Festival in Hungary. Already when five, Andrea demanded a spot for herself on stage. From a very young age as a child, she was singing and dancing in the Borsod, Avas, Csepel and Bartok folk dance groups. She travelled all over Europe, as a lover and performer of Hungarian folk songs and world music.

Today, her name is already well known in the world of artists, as well as amongst fans of the genre. It shows the diversity of her repertoire that even jazz or musical pieces fit well. In Stockholm, she represented our country at several international gala concerts. One of these significant events was singing on the Human Rights Day, in front of diplomats of numerous countries. Last November she performed at the renown Brugges Festival, this time as the singer of the international production Brugge – Bucharest Express. I met Andrea in the Valley of Experiences, at Borsod Arts Festival, in the Fignar Festival Court of Dubicsany.

Where did you arrive from now, here to Dubicsany, Valley of Experiences?
– Now I arrived from Sweden to Budapest where I spent a few days, then performed in Sibiu (Romania), with Zoltan Lantos violin virtuoso, with whom I will have a show here at this festival.

You are a world traveller. Where, in which countries have you performed, and how popular are Hungarian folk songs abroad?
– It would be easier to tell where in Europe I have not performed yet, because I have not been yet to the area that used to be Yugoslavia, nor to Norway or Holland. As the Hungarian folk song heritage is uniquely rich, it is looked at as something special. I mean the sound, the vocal techniques, the melodies. In many places, they consider Hungarian folk songs exotic, and there are people who compare it to Portugal Fado, Irish or Bulgarian folk songs.

How do you spend your days, what’s your schedule?
– Fortunately, I can manage my time pretty well, and I use the alarm clock only occasionally. On concert days, I try not to deal with other things.

Do you perform with a set musician team who go with you everywhere to provide you with accompaniment?
– I don’t have my own band but several various line-ups, and sometimes I perform in duos, sometimes acapella, or with a CD background. I have two duos to work with, one is Zoltan Lantos violin virtuoso, with him we play “floating” music which is very pleasant to listen to, with a special electronic sound. The other one is Beata Salamon who is one of the world’s best fiddlers, we play acoustic. As for bands, I have a line-up called Andrea Gerak & Friends, which is not one group, but I invite the musicians for the occasions, and also, one could hear me as a guest of Méta Band. In Sweden, for there is also a Hungarian folk band there, I sing with the Barozda. They migrated from Transylvania to Sweden, where they have been living and playing for twenty years or so.

We can say that you have found your way around the big world, for your name is well-known not only in Hungary but in Europe, too. How did you come to this festival now, to Dubicsany? (Dubicsany is a tiny village in North-East Hungary, Andrea’s hometown – ed.)
– As I grew up here in the near, in Kazincbarcika, I could almost say that I grew up on the stage of Egressy Cultural Centre, organizer of Borsod Arts Festival, so that was my second home as a folk dancer, and this way I had the connections from those old days with the organizers who gladly invited me and I, as you can see it, come here and sing with pleasure.

Already when five, Andrea demanded a spot for herself on stage. From a very young age as a child, she was singing and dancing in the Borsod, Avas, Csepel and Bartok folk dance groups. She travelled all over Europe, as a lover and performer of Hungarian folk songs and world music.

Today, her name is already well known in the world of artists, as well as amongst fans of the genre. It shows the diversity of her repertoire that even jazz or musical pieces fit well. In Stockholm, she represented our country at several international gala concerts. One of these significant events was singing on the Human Rights Day, in front of diplomats of numerous countries. Last November she performed at the renown Brugges Festival, this time as the singer of the international production Brugge – Bucharest Express. I met Andrea in the Valley of Experiences, at Borsod Arts Festival, in the Fignar Festival Court of Dubicsany.

Where did you arrive from now, here to Dubicsany, Valley of Experiences?
– Now I arrived from Sweden to Budapest where I spent a few days, then performed in Sibiu (Romania), with Zoltan Lantos violin virtuoso, with whom I will have a show here at this festival.

You are a world traveller. Where, in which countries have you performed, and how popular are Hungarian folk songs abroad?
– It would be easier to tell where in Europe I have not performed yet, because I have not been yet to the area that used to be Yugoslavia, nor to Norway or Holland. As the Hungarian folk song heritage is uniquely rich, it is looked at as something special. I mean the sound, the vocal techniques, the melodies. In many places, they consider Hungarian folk songs exotic, and there are people who compare it to Portugal Fado, Irish or Bulgarian folk songs.

How do you spend your days, what’s your schedule?
– Fortunately, I can manage my time pretty well, and I use the alarm clock only occasionally. On concert days, I try not to deal with other things.

Do you perform with a set musician team who go with you everywhere to provide you with accompaniment?
– I don’t have my own band but several various line-ups, and sometimes I perform in duos, sometimes acapella, or with a CD background. I have two duos to work with, one is Zoltan Lantos violin virtuoso, with him we play “floating” music which is very pleasant to listen to, with a special electronic sound. The other one is Beata Salamon who is one of the world’s best fiddlers, we play acoustic. As for bands, I have a line-up called Andrea Gerak & Friends, which is not one group, but I invite the musicians for the occasions, and also, one could hear me as a guest of Méta Band. In Sweden, for there is also a Hungarian folk band there, I sing with the Barozda. They migrated from Transylvania to Sweden, where they have been living and playing for twenty years or so.

We can say that you have found your way around the big world, for your name is well-known not only in Hungary but in Europe, too. How did you come to this festival now, to Dubicsany?
(Dubicsany is a tiny village in North-East Hungary, Andrea’s hometown – ed.) – As I grew up here in the near, in Kazincbarcika, I could almost say that I grew up on the stage of Egressy Cultural Centre, organizer of Borsod Arts Festival, so that was my second home as a folk dancer, and this way I had the connections from those old days with the organizers who gladly invited me and I, as you can see it, come here and sing with pleasure.

 How do you eperience success?
– This is a good question, for what counts as success? – one always stops for a moment to think about it. It happens that I get nice surprises and there are moments which bring tears in my eyes. For me, success is not really when let’s say, I get a fan letter or they flod me with flowers or this and that – of course, this feels all great. The greatest moment for me at a performance is to see how my singing, my music would touch someone.

 If you can remember, what was the first time when you felt it would be worth for you to get involved in music, singing, or when did you start to sing folk songs at all?
– My first “leading role” was in a kindergarten performance, when I was the poor girl who eventually became the prince’s wife, so that was a main character, and I had my first stage performance as a dancer as well around the same time.

 Do you still dance?
– Not as actively as before, but if it comes to that on the stage, of course with pleasure anytime, or sometimes I do workshops in Hungarian folk dance, or often we have a short dance presentation at a concert. And just for myself, just for fun, anytime gladly!

What are your plans, do you have mpre programs for the rest of this year?
– I can see the summer and the early autumn pretty well. After this concert, I will perform at the Global Summit of Hungarians, where probably I will have more than one gigs. If Zoltan Lantos will be able to come as well, we will do a show together there too. Then I will have a solo show in Veröce, at the Global Summit of Transylvanian Hungarians, there I will also be one of the persons hosting the program. And after that, my next gig will be at the National Wine Queen Contest, in Tarcal.

You are beeing modest, because you did not mention that you have represented Hungary at numerous occasions. What kind of events were these?
– Yes. For example at a Womens’ Day Gala which was organized by I don’t even know how many embassies in Stockholm, including the Hungarian one. In my folk dancer years, I have performed at many international folk dance festivals. Recently, in Sibiu (Romania), the Hungarian Cultural Office organized an event, which was called Hungaricum Days and they presented great values to the attendees. Also there, I had a concert with Zoltan Lantos.

One can hear these three names mentioned often together: Marta Sebestyen, Bea Palya and Andrea Gerak. How can you see the future of Hungarian folk music, will there be successors?
– It’s a great honor for me, if I am mentioned along with such great names, and fortunately there are many other well-known talents. There is Agi Szaloki for instance, or I know many young and talented singers, especially since they have started to teach folk music at the Liszt Academy of Music. I get many requests asking for advise via the internet or on the phone, from those who want to learn about folk singing. I am happy about that and gladly try to help them.

Are you planning a video clip or an album in the near future?
– Not this year. Now I am working on that I can make my older songs better, and focusing on the concerts. later we shall see how things develop around publishing a new album…

 Istvan Tamas  Editor-in-Chief 

American-Hungarian News

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*