Who we are/What we do

Greg Squared’s Surprise 40th Birthday Party

Yep, Greg Squared’s turning 40 this month, and while the actual date is still locked up in a classified folder that is buried in a wooden chest in the backyard, to be revealed at some unspecified point in the future, we’re going to celebrate this semi-auspicious occasion with our sister band, Raya Brass Band.

The show’s starts at 9 pm at our Brooklyn home base, Barbes, 376 9th St at 6th Ave in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and there’s the usual suggested donation of $10.

Also, our new album, Songs and Dances for Life NONSTOP, is still for sale on CD Baby. It’s an amazing album, and we strongly encourage everyone to purchase a copy at CD Baby. Click the link in the sidebar there and grab a copy before they’re all gone.

NONSTOP

We’re happy to announce the release of our new album Songs and Dances for Life NONSTOP

As a paean to the gritty energy and mettle of life in New York City, Songs and Dances for Life NONSTOP captures the fervor of the music that Ansambl Mastika calls the New Balkan Uproar. Still drawing influence from the myriad styles of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, the rapturously funky grooves and the ardent horn lines of the New Balkan Uproar now embrace vocal song that uses both traditional and original lyrics to transcend simple instrumentalism and forge a sound that pulsates with life . . . NONSTOP.

You can hear audio samples from Songs and Dances for Life NONSTOP on the ‘Music’ page or in the sidebar audio player on this website. To purchase the album or individual tracks go to the Ansambl Mastika page at CD Baby or click one of the album covers in the sidebar.

The New Balkan Uproar

With song styles ranging from the heart-wrenching clarinet ‘miroloi’ of northern Greece to the funkier chocheci of the Serbian and Macedonian Roma (gypsies); from the oriental mystery of Turkish chalgi ensembles and Middle Eastern orchestras to the driving power of Bulgarian wedding bands and Klezmer kapelye, Ansambl Mastika’s music is rooted in the myriad styles of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East. The ‘New Balkan Uproar’ is a joyful synthesis of these tumultuous sounds and irresistible grooves with jazz, funk, rock and other Western styles that captivates audiences on the dance floor, in the concert hall, and at the festival stage, leaving them breathless and clamoring for more.

Performances

Our ever-growing list of performances includes:

  • Boston Balkan Night–Concord, MA, 2006, 2011
  • A Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square–NYC, 2007
  • Balkan Overflow series hosted by Greg Squared–NYC, 2007
  • Create! Assembly Program series at PS 82Q–NYC, 2008
  • Kingsborough College’s Third Thursday Series–NYC, 2008
  • Zlatne Uste’s Golden Festival–NYC, 2006-08, 2010-2011
  • Musikfest–Bethlehem, PA, 2008
  • Droma Gypsy Festival–NYC, 2008
  • Sephardic Music Festival–NYC, 2008
  • Stone Church Arts–Bellows Falls, VT, 2009
  • International Festival of Arts and Ideas–New Haven, CT, 2010
  • The Jewish Museum Summer Nights Concert Series–NYC, 2010
  • David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center–NYC, 2011
  • Private events as diverse as 80th birthday parties, Fashion Week openings and Polish weddings
  • Club hits at popular New York venues such as: Barbes, Drom, Maia Meyhane, Mehanata-Bulgarian Bar, Zebulon, Rose Live Music and the Shrine.

Biographies

Greg Squared is the preferred alias of NYC-based woodwind player, composer and bandleader Greg Schneiderman. For almost a decade, his expressive playing style has figured prominently in the sounds of such NYC-area music groups as the Hungry March Band, the Zagnut (Cirkus) Orkestar, Veveritse Brass Band, Raya Brass Band, Staggerback Brass Band, and Astoriani. While some of these groups play Greg’s music, Ansambl Mastika is the only project that exclusively features his compositions and arrangements.

Ben Syversen is active as a composer and performer in a variety of contemporary music ensembles, including the Ben Syversen Trio, Knucklebean and Harry Lime. He has toured extensively in the U.S. and Japan, notably performing alongside the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Other highlights include appearances at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City, Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. Recently, Ben has become an active participant in the Balkan music communities of his hometown of Boston, where he is a member of the Poludaktulos Orchestra, and New York City, where he is the first-call trumpeter of Ansambl Mastika.

Matthew Fass is the founder, director and accordionist of the Zagnut (Cirkus) Orkestar, with whom he also taught Balkan folk dance. He has studied Albanian, Romany (gypsy) and Jazz accordion with Raif Hyseni, Ivan Milev, Kalin Kirilov, and William Schimmel, and has researched extensively in Eastern Europe. Matthew spent five years as a Board member of the East European Folklife Center, which puts on the bi-annual, bi-coastal Balkan Music and Dance Workshop known as Balkan Camp.

Joey Weisenberg began performing as a harmonica player and guitarist in blues bars in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Joey currently performs with bands including The Amazing Frosen String Quartet, Michael Winograd’s Klezmer Outfit, The Marija Krupoves Trio, Romashka, Zagnut Circus Orchestra, Ansambl Mastika, and as a leader of his own ensembles. Joey also works as the Musical Director at Brooklyn’s oldest synagogue, the Kane Street Shul, where he was chazzan for the high holidays in 2010. Joey is on the music faculty at Yeshivat Hadar, and has brought his “Spontaneous Jewish Choir” workshops to many institutions around New York. He is a teacher at Klez Kanada festival, and teaches private lessons to a variety of students young and old. Joey currently studies traditional Jewish nusach with Cantor Noach Schall.

Reuben Radding, principal bassist with the Zagnut (Circus) Orkestar, was born in Washington, D.C. to a family of classical musicians, and relocated to New York City in 1988 where he began studying with Mark Dresser and quickly became a busy stalwart of the downtown improvised music scene. His powerful sound and sensitive listening have contributed to countless ensembles in styles ranging from jazz to classical, as well as ethnic genres. He has been featured on over 40 recordings on labels such as Leo Records, AUM Fidelity, Tzadik, Clean Feed, and Knitting Factory Works, and has performed with such notable New York musicians as Frank London, Yuri Yunakov, and Andy Statman.

Matt Moran is active as a performer, teacher, and curator in the Balkan music scene. Moran plays traditional percussion with artists such as Lefteris Bournias, Raif Hyseni, Demetri Tashie, and other master musicians from the Balkans who have immigrated to New York. Through a weekly residency with his brass band Slavic Soul Party!, Matt has helped spark considerable interest in Balkan and Balkan-inspired music in New York City.