Fishtank Ensemble Lives The Gypsy Spirit

SOCORRO, N.M. January 21, 2011– If you’re going to sing songs infused with the gypsy spirit, it helps to have lived the gypsy lifestyle.

And if you want to immerse yourself in a hybrid form of the high-energy sound known as gypsy music, then take to the hills – or, in this case, to Macey Center – at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28 and meet the Fishtank Ensemble in a Performing Arts Series event.

The Fishtank Ensemble will perform at Macey Center on Friday, Jan. 28.

Before the concert, Tech Club-Club Macey will host a social in Macey Center from 5 to 7:30 p.m., with light snacks. The club presents social hours for people 21 and over. There is a $5 cover charge for non-members.

The performance is this season’s Betty Clark Memorial event; other sponsors are the National Radio Astronomy Observatory/Associated Universities Inc., the N.M. Tech Graduate Student Association, IRIS-PASSCAL, Holiday Inn Express and KUNM radio.

“The L.A. Weekly called Fishtank Ensemble ‘cross-pollinated gypsy music … one of the most thrilling young acts on the planet,’” said Ronna Kalish, Series director and a musician in her own right.

Every season, Kalish colors the PAS calendar with new hues in the entertainment spectrum, bringing to the small town of Socorro big-city performances that sparkle with color and excitement.

Such is the stuff of Fishtank Ensemble, a California-based group whose four members have lived the life they celebrate with their music, a blend of Romanian, Gypsy jazz, Flamenco, Balkan, Turkish and Tango, segueing from French jazz to Serbian and Transylvanian gypsy anthems and offbeat originals.


                                An Interview With Ursula Knudson

The Performing Arts Serices  conducted a brief one-on-one Q&A session with Ursula Knudson, vocalist, saw master and violinist with Fishtank Ensemble. Here is the result:

PAS: Fishtank Ensemble has a stop in Brooklyn before heading to Taos, N.M. That's quite a cultural leap! Do you find a great deal of diversity among your audiences, or not? Is this your first visit to New Mexico?

Ursula Knudson: This is our third or so trip to New Mexico. We love that state! Last March we were caught in a blizzard in Santa Fe. I love that the state is violet, sage green and red! That’s the way I see it. The audiences are diverse but have one thing in common and that is a very open mind and heart.

PAS: How do you relax between performances? Exercise, meditation, golf (ha!)?

UK: Huh? No, just kidding. We tend to like to sleep in a little later when on tour, but I very often can't because we travel with my four-year-old son.

PAS: Just like the gourmet chef who admits to craving an occasional Big Mac, what music genre would your fans be surprised to know you enjoy on occasion?

UK: I like hair bands. Doug and I both like Eminem. Djordje likes rockabilly. Fabrice is mostly a purist and has no Big Mac cravings!

PAS: You live the gypsy life you sing about: what do you give up in the process?

UK: Stability. But we have found that for our son (Fabrice and me), stability is in the attention of the parents, so he is surprisingly grounded because we are solidly very attentive to him.

– NMT –

The troupe has played everywhere from the hippest LA clubs to festivals, cultural centers, museums, parades, and even on the street, employing two violins, a slap bass, musical saw, both flamenco and gypsy jazz guitars, trombone, accordion and one little banjolele.

The members:

Fabrice Martinez (violin and violintromba), a native of France, is a gifted fiddler who has traveled with the Croque Mule caravan in Europe. He especially loves Romanian folk music, and also plays Gypsy, Hungarian and Swedish, among other music forms.

Ursula Knudson (saw, violin, vocals) is classically trained in voice and violin, and also travels with the Croque Mule caravan. She sings beautifully in Romanian, French, Japanese and sometimes even in English, her native tongue.

Douglas Smolens (guitar) is an accomplished Flamenco guitarist, producer and composer. His album, Worlds Collide, is a unique and bold mixture of traditional and modern styles, from “jondo” flamenco to modern day world fusion/drum and bass/techno.

The classically trained Djordje Stijepovic (bass) is as peripatetic in his travels (he joined world music bands in Serbia, Kal and Marsya) as he is in traveling across musical genres – Stijepovic provides his signature slap for rockabilly bands, and plays with bluegrass, cajun, jazz, blues and other type of bands.

Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for senior citizens 65 and over, and $10 for youths 17 and under; with a $2 discount if purchased by 5:00 p.m. the day before the performance.

Tickets are available at the N.M. Tech Cashier’s Office (second floor of Fidel Center), Brownbilt Shoes and Western Wear, Burrito Tyme Drive-up or at the door.

– NMT –