Andrea Gerák, Singer

  • 31 Aug 2021 6:07 PM
Andrea Gerák, Singer
Andrea started her career as a folk dancer way back already in her childhood. These days, beside singing, she writes poems, short stories and articles on a variety of subjects, and also enjoys photography.

She performed and lived in several countries of Europe; after 20 years the artist moved back to Budapest at the end of 2018 where she lives now.

Andrea's specialty is rendition of Hungarian folk songs, either acapella solo, or as ethnic fusion, or accompanied by a folk band. Being a multilingual person, she sings in around 20 languages and still counting, mainly traditional tunes of various nations.

Other styles can also be found in her repertoire, for example evergreens or pieces from musicals. Current focus: Fililibi Projekt (a female violin-voice duo) and Egy kis konyhazene ("A Little Kitchen Music"), a four-piece band. Both play own versions of Hungarian and other traditional songs, originals and covers.

Click here to visit her website

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kazincbarcika, halfway between Miskolc and Ózd by the Slovakian border where I was born. We often visited my relatives in Debrecen and in a village called Ibrány (Szabolcs County), that's a town now.

2. If you could be an expat anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

 I have never been there but I can imagine it would be a pretty, old town by the Adriatic Sea. I had been an expat for 20 years altogether: in Austria, Germany,  Switzerland, England, Sweden and lastly in Czechia  where I would go back with pleasure anytime.

3. What would you miss most if you moved away from Hungary?

Apart from the obligatory answer of "family and friends", the rich Hungarian culture: mostly the music life, especially folk music and dancing. I believe the soul of a nation can be best captured through these two.

Plus the language: I am multilingual but there is nothing comparable to being in the environment in one's mother tongue and understanding the nuances only the natives can appreciate.

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?

Day 1: The standard touristy sites (the Castle, Danube Corso, Bazilika, Hősök tere etc) are a must-see for good reasons. After those, in the evening I'd take my guests to a táncház ("dance house", the UNESCO Cultural Heritage folk music and dancing party) or a folklore show that I know to be as authentic as possible. Late night relax in a spa. As for dining, I would find a cozier restaurant frequented by locals, maybe with checkered tablecloths.
Day 2: A hop on-hop off boat trip to the Danube Bend.

5. What is your favourite food?

Nowadays I eat as if I loved the meal on my plate the most. For me, the concept of favourite food has more to do with childhood memories than what I actually love to eat best now as an adult: it would be a tie between my grandma's krumplilángos, my father's rakottkrumpli, my mother's famous töltöttkáposzta and the bableves & mákostészta combo. If I have to pick one thing, it will be gesztenyepüré: I would love to eat a huge bowl of it every day, hahaha!

6. What is your favourite sport / form of exercise?

Dancing! Beside Hungarian folk dance, it can be any other styles too, except for hip-hop or ballet (although I started out as a little ballerina when I was 5) or what is called contemporary dance.

These days I ride my bike a lot - on the photo I am singing in my biking outfit and hair. I also love to swim; used to be a competitive swimmer for a short period and I still love being in natural waters.

7. What is your favourite place in Hungary?

I have several: Buda Castle, a few spots in the Danube Bend, the Bükk Mountains and I think if I knew the Balaton area more, it would be somewhere on the North side.

8. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?

When my health condition allows (a chronic issue with my legs which resulted mainly from a cancer surgery in 2008), I will dance again. Other than that, I would love to do more and better of my other artistic pursuits: photography, writing, sometimes acting. And I would learn and play the piano.

If not art but something more practical, I would work with languages: translating and such. I could do quite well in maybe a half dozen of languages, learning a new one has been always an exciting game for me. That included Russian too, when everbody hated it in the school!

9. What’s a job you would definitely never want?

Can't imagine myself in any 9 to 5 jobs as an employee. Been there, done that - not for me.

10. Where did you spend your last vacation?

That must have been back in high school: at one or both of my grandmas, a training camp with one of my dance groups and a road trip to the southernmost beaches of Bulgaria, through Transylvania, with a theater group I was part of that time.

Since then, I never had vacations as such, because I don't need one – why would anyone take a break from doing something which is tremendous fun? I experience many parts of my work as little holidays: when I am invited to perform somewhere, I enjoy the travel part and I try to see, discover and capture as much of the place as possible. Or often I write a poem or something when I take a walk, a hike, a bicycle or train ride, I also take my laptop and have my office or rehearsal room for the day in a park or by the Danube. In fact, I am sitting in Szent István Park right now, with the music from the fountain of Margitsziget in the background.

11. Where do you hope to spend your next one?

As said above, I am very happy to go wherever my shows take me, let it be any city or small village here in Hungary or beyond. In my calendar at the moment our band has concerts in Zsámbék and later by the Rába river: I have never been to those places, so I consider these trips as workations - I think this is the word for it. And if I can choose just for fun: I long to go to the sea in Montenegro or Croatia, or go back to Czechia.

12. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?

Band: is it cheesy when I say 70's Disco? It was a tie for me between ABBA and Boney M and here in Hungary we had the Neoton Família, Judit Szűcs and others. In the folk group, our parties often ended up in a disco. I also liked Hungária with their rock and roll and many others, the great, melodic Italian hits, French chanson and so on – important was that I could dance to and/or sing along with a song. Rock, jazz or classical were not really on my radar. And first of all, I don't even need to mention: Hungarian folk music. Not what Gypsy bands play in a café but the real, traditional stuff that you can hear from Muzsikás, or that time Téka and Méta bands were also big.

Film: names and titles easily escape my memory, but on Sunday afternoons the TV used to broadcast film series featuring famous Hungarian and international actors or directors (Mari Törőcsik, Fellini, Bud Spencer, Mastroianni and many others), or adaptations of great novels (by Jókai, Dumas, Mikszáth etc). Watching these classic movies together were nice family times for us.

Hobby: Folk dance, of course. I began in the age of ten, and a few years later I was dancing in two groups: rehearsals every evening, often in the entire weekends too, shows, tours abroad as well, training camps - this was my life as a high school girl and later, a very busy, unforgettably joyful period of 15 years. I attended every folk music and dance event, concerts and whatever was available around my hometown and I also went to camps, festivals, in addition to my involvement in the folk dance groups. I  completed a course to be a qualified dance instructor and was teaching a group of children, and also took another exam to became a qualified performer. I did even more a bit later as a young adult. 

The other hobbies were just on the side: theater group, school choir, swimming or in the winter, ice skating. And hiking in the Bükk. In my remaining free time, I would read, read and read.

13. Apart of temptation what can't you resist?

Three things, not in a particular order. Cakes. They go with a good coffee. 
Moving my body when I hear music that inspires me to dance: it is almost impossible for me to sit through such a concert!
Discovering that one extra corner, spot or sight: when I am visiting a new place, it happens all the time that although perhaps I am already running out of time, my energy or I have planned something else to do, I simply must go further and look at still one street, one more building, a hill top etc, to see what is there or what's the view from there.
To give you an example: very recently I attended an amazing wedding by a lake and I was the last guest to leave, because after all that dancing, I took a dip and I also waited for the sunrise. Who knows if I will ever have a chance again to experience that wonder at that beautiful place?

14. Red wine or white?

I almost never drink, so in the very rare occasions when I do, I go with the recommendation by my host or partner.

15. Book or movie?

Book. I have been an avid reader ever since I discovered the joys of reading in a kindergarten age. I also do enjoy watching a good film.

16. Morning person or night person?

Night person, that goes with my profession. However it's in the plans to work out a different schedule so that I can enjoy the benefits of early mornings, too.

17. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?

I won't name one, because of several reasons.

First, feelings don't help much when one is trying to solve a problem: one needs to find the root cause and fix that. It requires more of reasonable thinking and acting than feeling about and raising awareness for a cause. Although I can be touched very easily and deeply, especially when children are involved, I try not to be influenced by emotions when it's about what should be done with a situation and I really don't like sensitization of social issues. In many cases, that can be more harmful than useful.

Second: society issues are individual issues added up, therefore one need to address them on a personal level first. It's up to each of us to be responsible for our own health for example, or how we live our own lives – it does not depend on the government, on a political party, an institution or any other person or group.

Third: all these society issues (poverty, racism, ethnic, religious or other discrimination and conflicts, drugs, domestic abuse and other forms of crime and so on) have underlying reasons. Divide and concur is only one of the techniques of controlling the population, others being: installing fear and victimization, diverting attention through political propaganda and mass media hypnosis, restrictions of free speech and freedom in general, gaslighting, cancel culture and a few more.

So I think the biggest issue is that not many people are aware of all this actually happening and that we are all treated as pawns in a dirty chess game, various topics are given to us to fight over with each other, while the "directors of this show" enjoy the profit they make on us. The mechanisms are the same as of wars: some circles with money and power have the interest in creating and maintaining conflicts and while they themselves stay out of it, everyone else suffers. 

18. Buda or Pest side?

Pest is where most of the things happen, but I can imagine it must be much nicer to live in the quiet and green hills of Buda.

19. Which achievement in your life are you most pleased about?

It was equally fantastic to perform as a lead singer or dancer of an ensemble or a band at big international festivals in Europe, or to sing the Himnusz, our national anthem solo acapella at an August 20 celebration of a small town where thousands were singing with me.

Along with such bigger moments, I have to mention "tiny moments" too which I have been experiencing so often when singing in the streets. (Yes, sometimes I still do that again, it's a way for performers to survive these harsh times.)
Like in Zürich, Switzerland, back in 2001 or '02, I was busking in the old town, before Christmas. Evita, Titanic, ABBA, Frank Sinatra... A beautiful but very sad girl was listening to me for a long time, for 20-30 minutes in the cold. She looked depressed, most probably on some drugs. When I finished, she couldn't give me any money but wrote in my guest book: "Thank you for singing. There is hope." I don't know anything about that girl, where is she now, but if I lifted her spirit up just a little bit and it changed something in her life for the better, I have done my job. I could tell countless of similar stories when a listener comes up to me to tell how my singing makes a difference for them.

20. What would you say is your personal motto?

It goes with my personality type that things change around me often, so do my mottos, reflecting various phases in my life. It could or still can be the entire lyrics of songs like "Gypsy In My Soul" or "Thank You For The Music".

The current one is two lines of a traditional Hungarian farewell song of the bride when she says goodbye to her parents and girlhood, and they let her step into her new life. The refrain:
"Kincs, kincs, nagyobb sincs,
Kinek szíve bánatba nincs "

"Treasure, treasure, there is no greater treasure
When the heart is without sorrow".

I think this is the way to tackle even the most challenging situations imaginable and to enjoy this miracle called life.

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