“They journey, we journey. They struggle, we
struggle. They dance, we dance. We're overcoming, they'll overcome.”
--Melvin Gibbs, Musical Director, Fire + Fire
The story begins in Hungary when three New Yorkers: Eisa Davis, Melvin Gibbs and Greg Tate take a summer field trip to Budapest with Jakab Orsos, Director of the Hungarian Cultural Center New York. They are in search of the Hungarian Gypsy experience, with a mind to investigate the synergies between the Black diaspora and Gypsy culture. For three days and nights they wine, dine and jam with fellow performers and musicians, discovering new territories of expression. Back home in New York, these encounters continue to percolate, creating Fire + Fire.
Fire + Fire features an historic meeting of musical sympathies when nine Hungarian Gypsy musicians meet with seven of their Black American counterparts to interrogate a history of mutual oppression and silences. Part of the yearlong Extremely Hungary Festival, Fire + Fire delves into the synergies of two cultures, melding musical and political expression—this taking the shape through the story of star crossed lovers caught in a weft of cultural clash and political dialogue. The ensemble employs an experimental fusion of spoken word, movement and full on “jam sessions” to create a brand new vernacular that will spring this tale of two cultures to life. Fire + Fire will be presented at Symphony Space on November 19 and 21.
“There are compelling parallels between the Gypsy and African-American
experience, that energy and struggle is reflected in jazz and Gypsy music—both
are intense, explosive, individual and raw.”
--Greg Tate, Co-Curator FIre+ Fire
"European Gypsies are discriminated against in
much the same way as African-Americans have been. The U.S. civil rights
movement, with such leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King, rewove the fabric
of U.S. society and culture, bringing opportunities and pride to African-Americans.
European Gypsies need a similar movement for equality, but they lack good
leadership and have little solidarity, so the near-term prospects for change
are small. One bright spot is a project such as this, which gives Gypsies
a new sense of empowerment."
--Andrea Gancs, Co-Curator Fire + Fire
Produced by the Hungarian Cultural Center in collaboration with noted essayist and cultural critic Greg Tate, Fire + Fire will feature nine Hungarian musicians and singers, in their U.S. premiere, on traditional Gypsy instruments including cimbalom and violin, alongside seven noted Black American avant-garde performers on instruments ranging from banjo to blues guitar. Alongside the music, the performance will weave in fusions of Black / Gypsy dance forms and will also be layered with multimedia projections. Fire + Fire’s Musical Director is Melvin Gibbs, a New York composer, producer and bandleader celebrated for his work with a diverse range of artists. Dramaturge Eisa Davis, is a playwright, musician and actor recently seen on Broadway in Passing Strange and whose 2007 play Bulrusher was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Curacao-born dancer and filmmaker, Gabri Christa will orchestrate multi-media projections as well as pull together the various elements of the piece as choreographer and director.
“Now is a crucial moment for Gypsies in Europe, as wide-spread
discrimination and racism proliferates in Hungary. The synergy between
the Gypsy and jazz musicians is electric. Both have mined musical strength
from political oppression.”
--Jakab Orsos, Director, Hungarian Cultural Center