Writing and music to look out for during Johnsmas

WITH Shetland’s Hanseatic connections the focus of this year’s Johnsmas Foy, it’s natural that a number of the performers at the 11-day event should come from places with which the islands had strong historical links.

Michael Augustin was born in Lübeck, Germany. He lives in Bremen with his wife, Sujata Bhatt, and their daughter, and works for Radio Bremen, where he edits a weekly radio documentary and presents a poetry programme. A writer and poet, he studied folklore and literature in Dublin in the 1970s and he still visits Ireland regularly.

German writer and poet Michael Augustin.

In the early 1980s he visited Shetland and made a number of sound recordings, which later became a radio feature programme about the history and the people of Shetland. On Sunday night, at Islesburgh, he’ll be recalling that trip and playing some of the recordings he made at the time.

He has won a number of awards, notably the Friedrich Hebbel Prize.He has been Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa and was a Visiting Professor and the Max Kade Writer-in-Residence at Dickinson College, Pennsylvania.

Michael Augustin’s published work includes a number of poetry collections. Recent publications have included Mehr Nicht! (2000); Ad Infinitum, Poems and Epigrams (2001); Das perfekte Glueck (2001); Kleines Brimborium (2003); Der Chinese aus Stockelsdorf (2005); and Mickle Makes Muckle (translated by Sujata Bhatt, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2007). He has also translated work by many others, for example Sujata Bhatt, Adrian Henri and Roger McGough. His work is reflective, occasionally surreal and often amusing, for example in his “Questions about Poetry”.

Sujata Bhatt was born in Ahmedabad, India, and lived until she was 12 in Pune, India, when she and her family emigrated to the United States. She studied at the University of Iowa and was later writer-in-residence at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She has also been a Visiting Fellow at Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, and poet-in-residence at The Poetry Archive in London. She has won many awards, including the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award, the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), the Cholmondeley Award and the Tratti Poetry Prize (Italy). She now lives in Bremen with her husband and their daughter.

Sensual and intensely colourful, Sujata Bhatt’s poetry explores identities, heritage and cultures. Her work appears in print in many anthologies as well as in her own collections, of which the most recent is Pure Lizard (2008). Her writing has been translated into more than 20 languages. She has translated poetry from Gujarati into English for the Penguin Anthology of Contemporary Indian Women’s Poetry and from German into English in the case of Michael Augustin’s Mickle Makes Muckle.

During her visit to Shetland, she will read from three of her books, Pure Lizard, A Colour for Solitude and Augatora. Michael Augustin and Sujata Bhatt will appear together three times during the Johnsmas Foy, first as part of the concert in the Methodist Kirk on Thursday evening, then in Baltasound on Friday 27th June and finally in a workshop in Lerwick on Sunday afternoon, 30th June, when they’ll be joining a number of local writers in public readings and discussion.

Guitarist Wolfgang Rieck-Dresden.

Wolfgang Rieck often appears with Michael Augustin and Sujata Bhatt in Germany and he’ll be joining them in the Methodist Kirk and Baltasound events. He was born and brought up in another Hanseatic city, Rostock. He trained as a seaman and later qualified in marine technology, then worked for some time in the electronics industry. However, he also trained in classical guitar and singing at the Rostock Conservatory. During the 1980s and 1990s he worked as a freelance singer and songwriter, playing in a duo with Joachim Piatkowski and in a folk/satire trio.

Wolfgang Rieck did more solo work after 2001 but was also involved in various collaborations, notably with Michael Augustin. His strong interest in plattdeutschen lieder (songs in the old, low German language) led to his releasing CDs and performing in a trio. Other work included creative writing sessions with teachers and primary school children on maritime themes. There were also theatrical collaborations and a major CD project, entitled Everything Must Change involving 19 guest musician and singers, including an a cappella group and a string quartet, which won wide acclaim in German folk music circles. More recently, Wolfgang Rieck has continued to work across the boundaries of music and literature, featuring texts by Theodor Kramer, John Brinckman and sometimes Michael Augustin.

Trombone player Ed Kroger.

The Ed Krager Quintet is a truly international jazz ensemble, featuring outstanding players hailing from Germany, France and the USA. Ed Krager himself is based in Bremen. He began his career as a trombone player and it’s that instrument with which he’s still most closely associated today, although he performed as a pianist for part of his career. Heâs performed with many jazz ensembles and was one of the founders of Big Band Bremen. Today, he is committed to teaching and playing with younger generations of jazz musicians.

Berlin-based Ignaz Dinn plays sax. As a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, he won the award for outstanding musicianship and went on to play with a host of jazz greats including Tommy Smith, Wynton Marsalis and Herbie Hancock. He formed his own quartet in 1995 and has also played with the Ed Krager Quintet since 1990.

Vincent Bourgeyx was born in Bordeaux and also studied at Berklee, where he was the first student to win the Billboard Magazine award. From a New York base, he formed a trio and toured the USA and Japan.

Marcel Kramker developed a love of blues and soul in his early years and, after mastering guitar, he took up Double Bass and played with the German National Youth Orchestra, winning several awards along the way for his playing.

Rick Hollander was born in Detroit and has been playing drums from childhood, subsequently studying with Gene Stewart and Roy Brooks. After time in New York, he moved to Europe in 1987, forming his own group and working with, among many others, Woody Shaw and Walt Weiskopf.

The performances by the Ed Krager Quintet offer an insight into jazz at its most virtuosic and engaging. They can be heard at Lerwick Town Hall on Saturday night, 28th June, in concert with Chris Stout’s Run North and again on Sunday 29th June, when they and Shetland Youth Jazz will be serenading lunchtime diners at Hay’s Dock, the restaurant in the Shetland Museum and Archives. Jazz enthusiasts and musicians will also be welcome at a free workshop on Saturday afternoon, 28th June, in Islesburgh Community Centre.


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