SASCHA LEY: “I am not monogamous, when it comes to art”

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The article in Turkish was written for Egoist Okur, 28.04.2013

A film based on the life story of “Hannah Arendt” has been showed at the 32th Istanbul Film Festival. Yet what we are more interested in, is less the film itself but Sascha Ley, whom we could see in one of the supporting roles. Ley is also a musician, or better characterized as a traveling musician.  She brings songs and stories to people in different parts of the worlds. In particular with her groups S. Ley & L. Payfert Duo, S. Ley & N. Gehl Duo and  Kalima.

Egoist Okur follower Sinem Dinçer wrote about this woman with a unique personality. You can enjoy her songs while reading!

Sinem Dinçer, completed her cinema education at Digital Film Academy and various workshops during her Turkish Language & Literature education in Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts. She worked for some feature and short films & video clips since 2007. At the same time she continues her graduate degree in İstanbul Bilgi University for Master of Arts in Cultural Management and she writes for some webzines about music & cinema.


The story of Sascha Ley starts in in Saarbrücken, southwest of Germany in 1967. She is the daughter of a Luxembourgish mother and a German-French father.  As a result, she spends most of her childhood and most of her adolescence between Germany and Luxembourg. All this back and forth has ended up playing a decisive a role in her life even as a child she has never suffered from homesickness, though much more from wanderlust. She likes being in motion.

Such a coincidence is that she undertook her first significant journey some 26 years ago to Turkey, where her film is currently being shown.

“My first big evasion was right after my Baccalauréat and my first important theatre experience, when I was 18 years old: I went to work in the south of Turkey for almost six months in total, in the fields of tourism and entertainment. And there already I tried to advantage of every free day to get into the country and visit the many places that seemed so exotic and familiar at the same time.

I remember plenty of magic and very special moments, places and encounters, that would impress me forever, I guess. And let me become a passionate traveler. And I know by experience, that there are beautiful people and places to find everywhere, in every country. So there are many places of interest to me, I want to discover. Continents!”

Sparkle in the distance: INDIA

After that first exotic and extraordinary trip, she decided that India should be the next destination. Extremely different from both the culture and the place she grew up with, India has turned out to become a long-term destination for her. There she got herself into a direction that is quite different from her musical education in Amsterdam and Saarbrücken.

“Ten years ago, I realized a dream of learning the music of the very foreign countries, starting by India. It was the moment right after I had decided to dedicate myself more to writing and composition. I felt it, as a deep need. It was a wild idea to go and stay three months in Mumbai.

After the third day I felt home, enjoying my studies with my teacher Dhanashree Pandit-Rai, enjoying a beautiful pulsating city and some of craziest people I have ever met. It was one of the best times I ever had. I could call this a milestone, but in a totally different meaning, right?”

The Indian adventure appeared to be a sort of turning point in her life. Beyond being there as a tourist, with her curiosity and talent to discover a new world, and maybe by redefining herself her stays in India have been adding substantial material to her work. For ten years this country has become more than a station where Sascha stops by.

“I love getting lost in unknown streets and worlds. Strange enough, I am more afraid of getting lost in the well-known or the normality, or in a routine. The strangeness of a situation or a country is a totally different thing, and the alienation wakes my senses up. Being abroad, being a foreigner always held this feeling of freshness, of life and discovery. That is why I love travelling so much. I find the exoticism irresistible. I adore the beauty of the otherness. My very first step on Indian land left me forever in love with this extremely mesmerizing and at the same time difficult and in some measure incomprehensible country.

You go from one extreme to the other; sometimes all opposite, beauty and ugliness, perfume and stink, palaces and ruins, lovely creatures and cripples and more, and everything happens at the same time. I immediately loved this voltage, enjoyed the craziness. It trains you being conscientious and permeable and open.

Now I often return to India. It can make me dizzy, but it bears enough mystery to keep me related.”


Being the women in all roles or in “LIFE”

Sascha is a woman whose interest and curiosity for life do not cease for a moment. Her senses are on the alert for everything and for everyone. What fascinates her is the life itself. “It is the most magnificent state ever. Plus our struggle with being here is fascinating, too.” As the flow of life changes constantly, Sascha does not think that she can explicitly talk about perceiving the world or perceiving the world in one certain way. According to her, the perception can already change with the momentary mood.

“The sun or its absence, the people who surround you, the things that happen, the place you happen to be at this right moment … I have not reached any wisdom yet, but I like to quote Chang Zhu’s ‘A road is made by walking’, that might get the closest to my idea of moving through (my) life.

I guess I basically got a positive approach to life, with partly quite critical and sometimes pessimistic thoughts, when I consider what is happening to the world and the nature, only due to human behavior.

The individual learns from one’s mistakes, but mankind does not. Of course, I like to philosophize about human nature; I try to understand what I need to understand, what I can still learn. And where I just can leave the things the way they are; which is also a central part of wisdom.”

A scene with Sascha Ley from “Hannah Arendt”

Indispensable passion: Acting

Although not having been trained at an acting school, she never gives up working devotedly on stage and films. With pronounced studies on music, but her determination and ambition for acting she would take part in many different international projects, rich in variety. She has been improving and shaping her acting method in her self-styled manner.

At the beginning of her career as an almost self-taught actress she often used to define her working procedure by musical structures and impetus.  Nowadays Sascha Ley is someone who remained faithful to her intuitive approach while using all her knowledge of techniques and psychology and, of course, the art of language.

“Of course, I always do my best, but I need to be challenged. The more challenging a character and a story is, the more enthusiastic I become. There is a real need for discovering new things. I like when a show got on its feet, but I really hate routine. As an actress and a part of the audience alike.

It had been my very first desire of becoming an actress.  And when I had become an actress, my desire was to go further, and slowly I am trying to explore other new fields. I recently understood that the acting leads me to other things; maybe it is or was “the road made by walking”, whereas the music is leading me to music itself.”

‘Music or acting, which comes first?’ This is the most common question Sascha gets asked. However she clearly declares that nowadays she does not have a preference at all; it is a subject of intuition.  I once said, that “I am not monogamous when it comes to art”, and I would say this is still the way I feel.

Her ‘must have’ is “MUSIC”

For Sascha, music is a term far beyond singing. She has been shaping her music career, which she started years ago by singing, by following the voices she created.

“Music and sounds mean the great playground of freedom to me. For the moment I love to immerse in free improvisation, which I like calling instant composition. It is where I started discovering my very own music in my beginnings as a singer. You start out of nowhere and create sounds. No boundaries, no rules, no structures; maybe some agreement with the fellow musician about the feel or the ambiance. I nowadays have enough vocabulary in order to really enjoy those experiments also in front of an audience. And the freedom of it all is a particular experience for both the musician and the audience. It is so close to life, to spontaneity.”


Each of Sascha’s projects consists of original, distinctive concepts. She loves creating diversity, turning up in distinct appearances and working with different people in various projects simultaneously.

S. LEY & L. PAYFERT DUO: Since one year I am deeply exploring this endless playground in a duo with the French bass player Laurent Payfert. We have an extraordinary complicity in dialoguing musically. I call it Deli jazz, delicatessen jazz …”

S. LEY & N. GEHL DUO: There is my duo with the accordion player Natascha Gehl. We partly do up our knowledge of pop and rock history and mix it with songs of Kurt Weill and own compositions, giving it a light theatrical silhouette. It is a fun project, slightly trashy-cabaret, where a little more of the actress shows up.”

KALIMA: Last but not least there is my trio Kalima with the German-Turkish piano player Laia Genç and Anne Kaftan on soprano sax & bass clarinet. In this special constellation it is quite a challenging project, too. We work on the crossroads of modern jazz and world music. We just happily released our new album “Everything Within”.

Sascha also appears as a guest singer in other projects. Caroline Thon’s fantastic big band “Thonline” of is one of those projects, Sascha she had been invited to recently.

Moreover, she started working for an experimental dance piece for children with vocals and instruments last week: Jungala. “It is nice and new to me to be staged as a musician and composer. We will be two dancers and two musicians.”

After years of working in the artistic world, Sascha states that she will go on working with the same productivity and pace. As for the things she has experienced in the past, she would rather speak of numerous small and medium height stones, rather than of milestones. She defined these as pebbles and gems.

“Obstacles and overcoming them. Phases. I consider my work as a work in progress. It goes slowly. I never really felt such as a dramatic milestone moment. Most so-called important moments lose their significance the very instant they happened. You cannot stay there and halt the march of time. You can only understand things and use the knowledge for what is going to happen next. Whenever I reached a goal, I wouldn’t even consider it as an achievement, but more likely consider the wide land that lies beyond (telling me, I have not reached anything ; )”

28 April 2013, İstanbul
Portrait & Interview by Sinem Dinçer
Published by Gülenay Börekçi (c) Egoist Okur

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