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Sandra Sangiao

Sandra SangiaoSandra Sangiao, born in 1988 in Santpedor, Catalunya, Spain is the vocalist for the Barcelona Gipsy Balkan Orchestra - a group playing klezmer and gypsy music from Eastern Europe.

Forr the past 3 years it has become a leader in Barcelona's World Music scene, achieving major international recognition. They have played in over 20 countries, at diverse venues such as Porgy&Bess in Vienna, Austria, Kino Sisko in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, Teatro Parenti in Milan, Italy, CRR Concert Hall in Istanbul, Turkey, La bellevillois in Paris, France and at Palau de la Música and l'Auditori in Barcelona, Spain.

They've also performed in festivals such as La Fira Mediterrània de Manresa, the International Gipsy Festival in Tilburg, the Imago Jazz Festival in Slovenia and Tres Culturas in Frigiliana.

Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra (BGKO) was created in 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. The band draws on many musical influences, including Klezmer music, Jazz Manouche, and Roma music.

The group originated when eleven musicians gathered in Barcelona to celebrate International Romani Day. Some of them had already met at various jam sessions, including at El Arco de la Virgen, and at other musical venues in Barcelona.

BGKO also explores the sounds of some Eastern European regions and draws inspiration from music in the regions of South America, Spain, and the Middle East. In 2015 the band changed its name in Barcelona Gipsy balKan Orchestra, keeping BGKO as acronym.

Sandra SangiaoHer other projects include Barcelona Gospel Messengers, Lua (duo with guitar player Annabel Villalonga), Sam Lardner (backing vocals), Sandra i Anaïs (duo with Anaïs Vila) and Bakary Keita (Mandinka music).

As a musician, she has always been attracted by traditional and popular music from the many diverse places she has traveled to. While she was studying for her master’s degree in Modern Music and Jazz at Esmuc she travelled considerably and got into various music related projects that fired her interest and imagination.

The Barcelona Gipsy Balkan Orchestra combines roman music with Balkan melodies and Jewish klezmer, with jazz and various other genres. The band members say Sandra is their sun, soul and energy.

In its mere five years of existence and after three released albums, the Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra group has become a kind of fan club for the world music scene - with its specific approach to music has delighted audiences throughout Europe.

The group is currently composed by the Italian, Spanish, French, Greek, Serbian, Ukrainian as well as the beautiful Catalan singer Sandra Sangiao. She won a Zagreb audience with her charm, as well as her voice and stage performance - with the performance in Zagreb giving them the energy to continue their career.

Sangiao has always loved to travel and In 2012 she decided to travel to the former Yugoslavia for a month by herself. It was her first visit, and she was in Belgrade, Kragujevac, Guca, Niš, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zagreb and Ljubljana.

Sandra Sangiao"During the journey I heard this kind of music that attracted me in a mystical way. I was very surprised because it had always been somewhere close to me, but I did not hear it before"

"But, as I traveled the Balkans for the first time, I felt a huge connection. I started to play music, to experiment and sing - but as a child, without any pretensions."

So began the story of the connection between the Balkans and Sandra Sangiao , a beautiful and talented musician from Catalonia who, with her unique voice, energy and charisma can fascinate audiences across Europe - or can transform the scene into a dance floor during the performance of "Gypsies Kiss the Song" or hypnotize the audience by singing "Gee, Gentle ."

The group was founded in this Catalan city in 2012 by Italian accordion player Matija Schirosa and Serbian-Indian clarinetist Robindro Nikolic . Today, along with Sandra and Matija, the band is composed of Frenchman Julien Chanal, a guitarist, Stelios Tojas on percussion, Serbian Ivan Kovacevic on bass, Spaniard Joaquín Sánchez on wind instruments and Ukrainian Oleksandr Sora on violin.

"When we perform every concert is different - from the energy of people, to how they react and what they give us and how they accept it - everything is different. Some audiences are "crazy", like when we play in the Balkans they are hot and fresh - the energy they provide is incredible."

"But we also enjoy playing in big beautiful theaters, where people are seated. Maybe they do not go the same way, but they both give us a different kind of nice energy."

Sandra Sangiao"I was having fun, I was just trying to fit myself into what I was listening to, and I really enjoying it. I'm happy as I sing this style, and I think that's the most important thing. Of course, I watched different movies and read some books."

"It was on my second solo journey to the Balkans that my travel was a personal journey. I learned a lot about myself. Traveling on my own all alone was among the greatest of experiences I've experienced. I met a multitude of different people, found myself in very different situations, in different places in the regions - I was able to learn from each of them."

It can sometimes be quite difficult to integrate different genres - moving from Romani, through Slovene and Arab music, to Klesmer (Ashkenazi Jewish music) - into one setlist and make it their own.

"We choose songs that we love from all the traditions of Eastern Europe. What's in common with them? First of all, it's all traditional music, so all songs have the same essence - music created by these people to share their feelings and communicate."

"Eastern Europe has this beautiful and unique thing - being a bridge between the West and the Orient, you can find a very rich and powerful blend there. To me - from a Western state, this music helps me to get closer to some of the sounds and rhythms that are different from my own - somehow complementing me. I like to be close to very different energies."

"For me, the Roma population is something that the whole Western culture has lost. They are more firmly connected with the moment, with the present, with nature and the community - to almost all of them, music is very important. "

Sandra Sangiao"They use it almost every day to share something, connect with each other, and let each other know that none of them are alone. Somehow, I feel that they still have magic of music, they are preserving it as precious."

"We included in our setlist the left-wing revolutionary anthems that are not Balkan, such as "Hasta Siempre, Comandante" or the fragments "Ay Carmela" and I am often asked "is the renewed popularity of revolutionary songs a good or bad sign for Europe?"

"It is true that these are revolutionary songs, but the reason we play them is that they have become a symbol of universal values that we consider for ourselves - freedom, respect, love, courage."

"As for other musical artists each of us listens to a multitude of different kinds of music. I am, for example, now much in sevdah, in classics, but I am also in love with Damir Imamovic and Amir (Medunjanin, op. Ur) and hope that one day we will have the opportunity to make some kind of cooperation with them."

"Communication is sometimes difficult because we have many different energies, backgrounds, thoughts, paradigms in the same room, at the same time. What we do is play. Whenever someone has suspicion, thought or suggestion, we try to play it."

"Then we all understand whether this is good and whether we will keep it that way. Music makes everyone talk the same language."

"We are increasingly composing, but we are still very interested in continuing to play traditional songs, because we find our inspiration there. These melodies and rhythms are ones who possess some magic, which you can find only in something that comes from ancient times."

Sandra SangiaoIn 2013, Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra self-published its first album, Imbarca, which was re-released one year later with the vinyl EP Satélite K. The re-release included three new songs: "Hasta Siempre, Comandante", "Cigani Ljubiat Pesnji", and "La dama d'Aragó". ( before the band changed it's name )

After releasing Satélite K in 2014, BGKO played on tours around Italy, Greece, Malta, Serbia, Slovenia, Germany, and France, in concerts and festivals in Spain, and at the Auditorium of Barcelona.

BGKO hosted the Balkan Reunion in March 2015, which brought together numerous notable Balkan musicians from around Europe, including the Macedonian saxophonist King Ferus Mustafov (referent from the East Gipsy music), Vlado Kreslin (known for his collaborations with R.E.M.), and the Turkish singer Nihan Devecioglu.

Around 1,300 people attended the concert, which took place at Sala Apolo. BGKO's second disc, which germinated from this Balkan encounter, was released in September 2015. Throughout 2015, the band played in Granada, Málaga, Palau de la Música Catalana, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Switzerland, Serbia, Germany, and Istanbul.

Its version of "Djelem Djelem", the international Gypsy hymn, has received more than 10,000,000 views on YouTube. During spring 2015, BGKO began a management and booking collaboration with Diggers Music.

The unique and particular sound of Barcelona Gipsy balKan Orchestra stems from the tireless and passionate exploration of the roots and flavours of klezmer and romaní traditions and the balkan music in general.

Sandra SangiaoBalkan music, perceived as a set of musical traditions and a multiethnic culture, goes beyond its geographical borders and is moreover nurtured by all those historical traditions that coexisted in this land throughout the centuries - such as askenazi, jewish and sefardies, gypsies, ottomans, arabs and other ethnic groups.

The band itself blends the various artistic influences of each of its members and has been greatly enriched and shaped by Barcelona’s musical scene - from latin american to traditional catalan, italian, greek, russian and middle eastern songs to the vibrant sounds of jazz, flamenco, jazz manouche and rockabilly.

The diverse and talented musicians which comprise Barcelona Gipsy balKan Orchestra have always been distinguished by the passion and originality in which they interpret Balkan music while simultaneously bringing it forward with a modern approach.

"We were contacted about four years ago by a cellist who had played with me music from Menorca, Catalonia and Fado. I was studying at the Superior School of Music of Catalonia at that time."

"And, by chance, I was just planning a trip alone through the former Yugoslavia, although I did not know anything about this music. Yes, my father told me a lot about the conflict in Sarajevo, and I also remember images on TV and my father being very touched."

"There in the former Yugoslavia, on the street, this music is not heard much. I have the feeling that in these countries they have tried to hide traditional music and go towards newer things to forget the past."

Sandra Sangiao"These sounds remind you a little of the past, of tradition and of the conflict. But now, little by little, it is being heard again and we have a very good reception there."

"We went to make a documentary about the band in the former Yugoslavia and at each concert we met musicians there. We've done concerts in Croatia, in Bosnia, in Serbia, in Sarajevo, everything has been amazing, the people knew of us a lot."

"And suddenly come some musicians from a cosmopolitan city like Barcelona - a Greek, an Italian, a Frenchman, a Spanish-Catalan and a Serbian, who come together and create something from the contemporary, with this idea of a union of cultures and, above all, doing this with their music - I guess they felt good, proud."

"We get lost all summer, which is when we do many concerts. Every summer we are a month in a van and it's hard, physically and mentally. But we have met many musicians and a lot of life. And after this we wanted to relax, because it's been three years of incredible activity.

Sandra started singing when she was very small. She always sang. And six years ago she decided to dedicate herself professionally, after a long time of being a teacher of singing and choirs and working with children.

The group demands, in addition, to be very attentive with the different languages, because it has to sing in Castilian, Catalan, rom (the language of the gypsies of the East), Serbian, Russian and now in Arabic for a song that they will incorporate to the disc that already has been recorded.

Sandra Sangiao"We say we make music from Eastern Europe. Apart from all the old music of the Slavic peoples, we also include the music of the communities that we are going through and that have been established. They took the music that was there and mixed it with their own."

"And right now, in fact, there's a mix that you do not know very well. We, as we travel, discover new music, for example in southern Italy we listen to the songs played by Albanians when they arrived in the sixteenth century fleeing from the Ottoman Empire. And that energy falls in love with us, so we incorporate it."

"We do not come from this music, culturally, so for us it's a constant discovery. The only one who has these roots is Ivan, but he has always played rockabilly and studied jazz, although he has listened to this music all his life."

"During all these years we have been doing our songs. Now we have composed the soundtrack for a documentary from El País that talks about the state of borders in Eastern Europe."

"The audience of the band is cosmopolitan and multi-generational, always, in all the countries we visit. People connect with us right away," says Sandra."

"No matter how old they are. They have played on the street, in festivals, in theaters and in jazz halls." Sandra has stunned the Balkans themselves for their magnetism on stage and ended up singing in the middle of a roomful of people in Istanbul. Balkan music, that of Eastern Europe, is still alive through new groups that recover a tradition born of a melting pot and to which they are incorporating new discoveries. Recreating it, improving it. Respecting, in short, its mutant condition..."

Sandra Sangiao


Imbarca (2012)
Balkan Reunion (2015)
Europa cierra la frontera – Soundtrack (2016)
Del Ebro al Danubio (2016)
Avo Kanto (2018)

Follow Sandra on Facebook
Official BarcelonaGipsybalKanOrchestra
Band on Facebook



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Bonesetters Waiting Room

In the Bonesetter's Waiting Room:
Travels Through Indian Medicine

BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week India defies definition, and the story of medicine in India is similarly rich and complex: shaped by unique challenges and opportunities, uniting cutting-edge technological developments with ancient cultural traditions, fuelled by political changes which transformed the lives of millions and moulded by the energy of forceful individuals. Here, Aarathi Prasad investigates how Indian medicine came to be the way it is. Her travels will take her to bonesetter clinics in Jaipur and Hyderabad and the waiting-rooms of Bollywood's best plastic surgeons, and introduce her to traditional healers as well as the world-beating heart surgeon who is revolutionising treatment of the poor around the globe.

Like a Virgin

Exploring the Frontiers of Conception

Sexual evolution is a slippery business. Like all mammals, we humans seem to have been left no choice in the matter: even though it is costly, inefficient and dangerous, if we want to reproduce we simply have to have sex. Yet most human cultures tell the tale of a maiden who gives birth untouched by a man; and in the wild there are plenty of creatures – such as turkeys, komodo dragons, sharks and the 'Jesus Christ' lizard (which walks on water, too) and that take various approaches to reproducing without sex.

In LIKE A VIRGIN, the biology writer Aarathi Prasad discusses how reproduction without sex is achieved in animals and explores why evolution has not made it an option for humans yet. In doing so, she provides a quirky, entertaining and perceptive overview of the mysteries of evolutionary biology, sex and reproduction's past, present and future.

It is a remarkable story that ranges across Greek mythology, natural history, agriculture, conservation and medicine; takes in some of the most exciting areas of developmental genetics and molecular biology that other popular science books largely ignore; and is packed full of a cast of amazing characters, be they obscure animals or eccentric scientists such as the respected geneticist Dr Helen Spurway who in the UK in the 1950s unwittingly sparked a nationwide search for a virgin mother.

There is now a plethora of strategies being developed in reproductive medicine that could ultimately keep our species going in a world of embellished sex: the creation of artificial eggs and sperm from bone marrow, labs-on-chips on which eggs are fertilized, silicone wombs and artificial wombs (where fetuses can spend their full nine months), and even research to prepare us for reproduction in space. What is more, we are finally beginning to understand what genetic modifications are needed to allow for the creation of women who could have babies without having sex. Now that we have the competent hand of science in our lives, will girls still need men?

Publisher: Oneworld (UK/US)
Pub Date: 16 August 2012
Status: Draft manuscript
Length: 288 pages

All rights available excluding:
UK & Commonwealth, US, Arabic (Arab Scientific), Japan (East Press)

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Yabanci is a book by a Dutch woman who moved from Holland to Turkey to start a new life in a Turkish village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A great read for those who are considering a move abroad or have lived in a different culture. Available in English as an ebook or in Dutch in both print and popular ebook formats... take a look

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