Three Leipzig-based international friends with three different writing and performance styles have come together to form the dynamic and eclectic trio Inky Ensemble: Stewart Tunnicliff(from the UK, a short-story writer and poet with striking slam proclivities), Christijan Robert Broerse (from Canada, a poet and musician with strong historical, philosophical and psychological depth) and Maeshelle West-Davies (from US/UK, a prolific visual artist with super-creative performance ideas for spoken word as well). Other friends from Leipzig Writers may join in sometimes (I have even made an appearance before), but this is the core group, and I think they complement each other really well. And I’m not just saying that because they all write for LeipGlo and I might be a little biased. You should check them out for yourself. Good news is that you can catch them from anywhere in the world by tuning in to Radio Blau online Tuesday, July 21, at 10 p.m. Leipzig time. They will be chatting with host David Dichelle, performing some spoken word and playing some songs on the English-language show Continental Subway, on which I also appeared once and had quite a good time.
Stewart Tunnicliff, Inky Ensemble, at KUK! Festival at Leipzig’s HTWK in June. Photo by A. Ribeiro.
Maeshelle West-Davies, Inky Ensemble, at KUK! Festival at Leipzig’s HTWK in June. Photo by A. Ribeiro.
Christijan Robert Broerse, Inky Ensemble, at KUK! Festival at Leipzig’s HTWK in June. Photo by A. Ribeiro.
Inky Ensemble performances scheduled so far for the near future in Leipzig are Poniatowski’s second birthday the afternoon of September 6th; and a creative writing and performance workshop at Das Sprachwohnzimmer in October, out of which participants will get a chance to perform at the Leipzig Writers’ Sofa Stories. For more information on how to sign up for the workshop and when exactly it will take place, e-mail Stew at email@example.com or Sprachwohnzimmer owner Astrid Wenzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And we have now entered another culture-busy week in our “tiny metropolis” of Leipzsch.
On Tuesday, June 9, there’s a movie showing organized by GlobaLE Leipzig, in the Festsaal on the first floor of Neues Rathaus(Martin-Luther-Ring 4). The movie, shown in its original Italian with German subtitles, starts at 7 p.m. and is called “Io sto con la sposa.”It’s described by the event’s Facebook page as “the true story of five people who fled [Syria for Italy], as is the story of many at the EU’s external borders… In an emotionally touching, humorous but in no way trivializing manner, the core of the so-called Dublin Regulation will be taken up, very clearly illustrating how fugitives and asylum seekers are denied a self-determined place of residence.” Meanwhile, starting at 8 p.m. in the basement at Die VILLA (Lessingstr. 7), there’s the regular weekly event Sprachenabend Leipzig, at which people go around joining tables where a myriad of different languages are respectively spoken. Both culturally intriguing ways to spend an evening, and a chance to meet some new, diverse people probably with some shared interests. And the good thing about the Sprachenabend is that you can go next week, too, if you can’t make it this time (or can make it and want to go again).
Friday, June 12, is all about music. Besides the Bachfeststarting (and running until June 21st), with a packed program to celebrate the life and works of Leipzig’s biggest celebrity, there is a jazz event in a Reudnitz beer garden as part of the LeipJAZZig initiative. From 8 to 10:30 p.m.Blaswerk, a cool local wind orchestra that plays all kinds of jazz (from swing to Latin) and film music, performs at Hopfenspeicher(Oststr. 38). I will definitely be at this one (I sometimes sing with this orchestra, although this time I’ll only be present as part of the audience). Also at Leipzig east, at the only Polish bar/restaurant in town, Poniatowski (Kreuzstr. 15), the multicultural band Klezmer Muskelkater(with musicians from Iran, Italy and Germany) will also be performing at8 p.m.
Saturday, June 13, presents Sofa Storiesonce again. The drill: Artists, in a laid-back atmosphere, share their poetry, stories and/or music with patrons at Uptown Coffee Bar(Riemanstraße 44), a production of Leipzig Writers. I have performed there too (I’m a busy butterfly), but this time someone a lot more interesting than me will take the stage (or sofa… or stool). It’s Ian from local band Cox and the Riot. And the performance starts at 5 p.m. UPDATE: The previously announced HomeLE café eat and dance event for Saturday has been postponed, and the date hasn’t yet been set.
And finally Sunday, June 14, is a day to hang outside being culturally stimulated at every step. Let’s just hope the weather cooperates. Starting at 12 p.m. and running for 12 hours, is The Market(at Täubchenthal, Wachsmuthstr. 1). The monthly event bears the self-explanatory description of “street food, design and vintage market,” plus a roster of diverse artistic acts to further brighten up the atmosphere. Moving from west to east the same afternoon, you can catch tapetenwechsel #4 on Eisenbahnstraße, with artists performing in people’s private gardens from 2:30-7:30 p.m. You have to join the organizers’ Facebook page/message them or know someone who’s hosting or knows where they’re going to find out the addresses. I found out where last time from a musician friend of mine and really enjoyed it. And last but not least, from 12-7 p.m. at Clara-Zetkin-Park (Anton-Bruckner-Allee) is the Ökofete, described as “the largest environmental festival in Mitteldeutschland… a festival for the whole family, [with] 130 stalls and a cultural program. Not only can you buy organic products [food and beverages], but also learnsomething aboutcurrentenvironmental issues, smart solutions, and about those in Leipzig [associations, offices, companies, individuals] who contribute to the environmental cause.”
I’m not even listing every single special event happening in Leipzig here; some additional ones are on our Facebook page, others on other online pages and flyers, some completely underground. So if you look closely, there are plenty of opportunities to thoroughly enjoy your week and weekend in Leipzig! And maybe I’ll bump into you out there.
So, I’m thinking of performing this poem of mine for the open mic in honor of Wave-Gotik-Treffen, happening Friday evening at Leipzig’s Poniatowski. Somehow I think the poem’s theme of dark passion would be appropriate. If you so desire, check it out yourself here and tell me if you like it. And I hope, if you’re in Leipzig or nearby, that you do make it to the open mic as well. It tends to get quite interesting.
The next open mic of Leipzig Writers will adopt this gothic vibe, carried by this irresistible “dark” wave. It will take place the opening night of Wave-Gotik-Treffen – Friday, May 22 at 8 p.m. It will be, as usual, atPoniatowski, the regular meeting place for the writers’ group and related literary events (Kreuzstraße 15). Come read your own work, dressed in dark clothes preferably, and you get a free drink. Or just come listen and hang out.
A question I’ve often asked myself while witnessing the crowds of gothic fans take over, adding some (dark) color and diversity to the streets and parks here is, why Leipzig? The ever-dependable Wikipedia tells me that the festival’s first try was in Potsdam in 1988, but while it managed to attract 150 people, it was shut down by the police in the former GDR. The second attempt at what is now the Wave-Gotik-Treffen happened after Germany’s reunification; they found a venue in Leipzig to host the event, Conne Island, and got 2000 attendants. The festival has since greatly expanded and grown tenfold to some 20,000 people each year. Majhon Phillips has written an interesting article (regardless of whatever political stance it takes) on why the gothic subculture has exerted such an attraction in East Germany (although I don’t agree that it should be simplified as a “depressed sub-culture”):
“Why did the modern Gothicism begin in Germany? With over 60,000 members, called Grufties, the German Goth movement is huge. Compared to the history of other European countries in the late twentieth century, it is no surprise that this depressed sub-culture started here. Unlike other communistic cultures and war-stricken countries, East Germany went through the Weimar Republic, Nazism, and Communism in less than 100 years. (…) Gothicism offered a cynical freedom from the confusion. It allowed thoughts and ideas, not just propaganda. In 1989, there were 600 Grufties in the German Democratic Republic [GDR]. These Gothic people were very visible, and made a very clear stance against communism. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germans had the freedom to choose any music available. Ironically, many of them continued down the Gothic path. And today, East Germany accounts for two-thirds of the Grufties in Germany.”
Even if you have nothing to do with the gothic subculture, this festival is worth checking out both for its cultural and historical dimensions – besides the entertainment value, of course. Not that you will have much of a choice if you’re passing through pretty much anywhere in Leipzig next weekend. You will see them.
Intrigued by the title of this event-related post? Good. I’ll explain: Maike Steuer is in the process of transforming the site at Georg-Schumann-Str. 206 into an “intercultural cafe by September,” the event’s Facebook page says (that’s where the “construction site” part comes from). She invites you to come by Saturday, May 16, to check out the place, hang out, eat, chat and listen to some literature (that’s where the “culinary” and “reading” parts come from). From 3 to 6 p.m., the location will be turned into “Restaurant for a Day,” welcoming you with coffee and homemade sweets. To get in, bring 5 euros or your own homemade cookies or cakes. It is said that Leipzig Writers will be on site reading from their poems and prose. There may be some music as well. Sweets, coffee, chat, interesting people and ideas. Nice, cosy way to spend a springtime Saturday afternoon…
What are you doing this Friday, May 15? Will you be in Leipzig? If you feel up to it, come ’round to Uptown Coffee Bar, Riemannstr. 44 (by Flowerpower off Karl Liebknecht Str.), at 5 p.m. Two of my fellow columnists – Stewart Tunnicliff (#MoviesAndTV) and Christijan Robert Broerse (#Literature) – and Iwill be reading stories and poetry there. Stewart calls the three of us performing and collaborating together “Inky Ensemble.” The main thread at the event, “Another Home,” is a special place in each of our respective lives that’s been left but not left behind, because it’s still very present in our minds and creative musings. But I’m sure there’s room for surprises. The occasion is part of the regularly running Sofa Stories series, proudly presented by Leipzig Writers.
Maybe you’ve read his poem and movie review already posted on this blog. The guy can write. The good news is that he writes prolifically, and I keep getting material from him to share with you here. So today I present to you Leipzig-based writer Robert Christijan Broerse‘s journey through Córdoba, Spain – an ancient city that has stayed close to his heart in its hybridity, faded glory and simple pleasures. His time there and deep reflections have yielded a very illustrative – and historically and culturally informative – prose/poetry melange with some travel guide aspects.
I believe there are some cities in which you must dream yourself before you arrive.
Years ago I had seen the film Lawrence of Arabia and in a melancholic moment, the late Sir Alec Guiness in the role of Prince Feisal reflects on the lost glory of Córdoba. He tells the titular character that once there were “two miles of public lighting in the streets when London was a village.”
The Prince reflects on the war with the Turks and tells Lawrence that he longs for the “vanished gardens of Córdoba.”
Today, Córdoba is still beautiful but when I arrived years ago, it was like visiting the house of a famed but long-dead composer. You walk amongst the relics, see the scraps, the letters, the composition sheets but everything is under glass, everything cannot be touched, history left behind.
Coming to such a place, a city, if you become too cynical, you stop seeing the beauty. You try not to fall for the fabrication, the city on display in post cards and in “Made in China” souvenirs; you want to feel closer to something that brought you there.
So often you have to look harder and maybe, you’re not quite successful.
Puento Romano (la reflexión)
Flocks wander into sunset church bells sonorous, orderly amidst the thunder of centuries as it always has been
Questions or ringing songs bellow and drown calls from the high tower while ghostly banners flutter high above as it always has been
Over the river’s green, writhing in resignation but look below, above, placid parapet, no soldiers nor shields nor shush of arrows, ghosts adorn olive-hued hills and distances
Arriving late in history, tourists’ babble in brooks of conversation meandering through museums of swords, tucked in scabbards and there the red and white arches, courtyards, patios returning for the wine in the evening
Hands reach in pockets to pay Euros for the guitar chords, to keep the giddy Flamenco man alive and this gypsy tinkling trinkets, amber, bezels, the carnelian box sitting atop a blanket of faded embroidery
and more of the same scattered about
just scattered about
further on, and further on
In its time this place was a centre of innovation, learning. It was the Arabs of al-Andalus who rescued the great Greek Philosophers from the ravages and backwardness of Medieval Europe, preserving the works of Plato and Aristotle, continuing the philosophical dialogues by writing their own commentaries and treatises.
And science. The genius of Arabic engineers had turned the former Roman Province of Hispana, (a backwater in the time of the Caesars) into an agricultural wonder with innovative irrigation systems. We should remember it was the Moors who first introduced rice and citrus fruits into the arid landscape.
Whether in the libraries, in the great palaces or in the countryside, the mind and heart were devoted to beautifying life.
By the candle, there are Sheets of polemics, treatises, Ibn Rusd, Aristotle, refutations, al-Qu’ran and poetry…
and libraries with that one echoing crack, my steps around the table, and in the pages, I lean down, inhale
perfume, this, one of the books she once held
stare awhile, and try to read on, but then I see now, yes, how the letter Waaw (و) resembles hair over neck and shoulder,
how it falls as if like a wave when she was dancing; my lips coupled to this word
‘and’(و) and there in all these pages, rereading simple verse, to see it,
how it forms black hair
how my lids sink,
and this, my sighing breath which once wandered over almond shoulders
as she slept
as she slept
But beauty and wonder brings its own corruption and warring factions within the Western Muslim society of al-Andalus, leading to the beginning of a greater loss. The Muslims who made the city great, a dynasty going back to Abd al-Rahman I (731-788) could no longer hold on to the reins. Perhaps they had been too tolerant, too in love with the luxury they feverishly fostered and generously cultivated. One philosopher, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) suggested that a civilization that had time to plant orange trees was doomed; the “Orange Grove” theory of history.
The Mezquita, the famed Mosque still stands proudly albeit with a Catholic chapel like a knife wound in its centre. Amidst what feels like an endless row of columns and red and white arches, a place bathed in a subdued, sepulchral light like that of dusk or dawn, there is this intrusive symbol of the conqueror. The way a prisoner must feel in the presence of a prison guard, such is this chapel to the mosque. It is a dark reminder that a greater culture, one where Jews, Christians and Muslims for many centuries co-existed, was no more.
And maybe had never truly been.
I will admit, then and now, I am constantly on guard against my own romanticism. While visiting Córdoba I knew that while the irrigation canals were being dug, while philosophers gathered in gardens, while poets recited by fountains, men were still killing men in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Wars raged on beyond the idyllic, dove-warbling backdrop. There was still slavery and injustice. It wasn’t all just orange groves and roses, nightingales in gardens.
Yes, to glorify the past is to wade into nostalgias we hopelessly borrow from our own defeated, often adolescent ideas ofUtopia. But there is something to counter my own wayward vision; for even to this day, the Catholics of present-day Spain still regard the Moorish legacy as an abomination. They don’t see their own heritage as a result of a Muslim culture. No, they remember their ancestors fought valiantly against it. Yet why praise their version of the ‘facts’?
After the fall of Córdoba and neighboring Seville and Granada, we had the Spanish Inquisition, auto de fes, the Conquistadors in the New World, the suppression of the Netherlands for some 80 years. Thus tides and ebbs of domination and suppression, domination and suppression. Alongside the British and the present-day Americans, the Spanish were absolutely brutal in their domestic and foreign policy. Truly, since Isabella sat on the throne and Columbus went out into the New World, Spain and its people have suffered. Moreover, they have spread suffering throughout the Americas.
One might argue that had the Moors of al-Andalus sustained their power, would they have set sail across the ocean? Would they have enslaved indigenous tribes? Would they have weighed down their ships with bloodied gold to beautify the Motherland?
Most likely, I can cynically say. Maybe it is better to believe that Córdoba flowered once, that it was cut down along with its neighboring cities, with the greater al-Andalus before it could do more harm than good.
Still, I haplessly wrote this poem while in Córdoba:
Desde tu salida… (Una alegoría para ella)
Bare feet trickles like a brook over stone, hand carrying shoes unfurled black hair, a shawl, shadow, she softly departs
and the overturned lamp, and the book cracked open stuccoed rooms, truly are they mine?
Warmth seeps up through my soles on the tiles sunlit I take down from the shelf, a resolution of bread, oranges, I break open the skin, and it is fresh, a breeze of Citrus, and for a moment I smile,
But this fruit, from her gardens , so too the lemons and rice,
I reach for a bottle then, as if her the red liquid for this Ache, she who wouldn’t drink, and I,
clap the worn knife against the wood
fruit split the crumbs of bread as if tiny stones from a battle, a battered wall,
the one I took down with my wrinkled fingers,
my wrinkled hands, her drying blood, knuckles I sweetly suck, her fruit in my mouth.
This past Friday marked the first time in five years (since I moved to Europe) that I read one of my poems in public. It was at the open mic at Poniatowski, a very successful evening that stretched long after magnetic, dynamic emcees Jolanta and Kapuczino left the stage. A few of us stayed on til 5 a.m., drinking vodka, talking deep and talking shit, singing together, even dancing a little. We bonded and one of the performers, the talented Canadian Christijan Robert Broerse, said he would send me a sample of his own stuff to feature on this blog (stay tuned!). Oh, and when we hit about 4 a.m., I even played some sort of wooden drums for a couple songs, accompanying Christijan’s acoustic guitar.
Besides some familiar voices and faces, a few people had their debuts in the Leipzig open mic circuit last night, with performers coming from diverse backgrounds. There was a stand-up comedian from Albania whose jokes clearly riled people, but he stuck through with courage and composure. And there was also Alex, a literature enthusiast from Ukraine. The emcees announced her as a (self-described) “dramatic performer.” She gave quite a show reading the last page of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger; before she began, she described the James Bond movie it inspired as “a feminist dream compared to the novel.” It was uproarious.
I have done plenty of singing other people’s songs at open mics and jam sessions around Leipzig, mostly impromptu but once with the 40-plus-piece orchestra Blaswerk. I did sing at last Friday’s open mic as well, during the regular performance hours, accompanied by the lovely Dolus Mutombo, and people told me they enjoyed it. (We played reggae.) But sharing my own poetry with people out loud is another story. It’s a lot more personal, to begin with. And I always feel like I need to give some sort of context for the piece of poetry, and talk and read well, whereas with singing I feel like I can just get up there and do it. Although I do have trouble knowing just how to position my hands, and how to move when the instrumental parts come on. See, I’m an awkward dancer on stage, and definitely wouldn’t call myself a performer. Anyway, it all seems to have gone over well.
Here’s the poem I read at the open mic, which I brought in written by hand on a piece of notebook paper. I wrote it at one of my regular hangouts Café Pushkin (a bar with a bit of a Bohemian commie vibe, named after the late Russian poet), when someone dear challenged me to go somewhere and create a poem in a couple hours. I left the house and went there alone and sat for a while, and this is what came out…
At Café Pushkin the day before New Year’s Eve, 2014, by Ana Ribeiro
“The wild days must be over sometime.”
My Freund‘s words enter the bar
with me – through the red
curtains, the soft yellow lamp
glow, set against the prickly
peaceful blanket of winter white.
“The wild days must be over…”
But matchboxes surround
the sweet Christmas bouquet in
front of the old-style beer
pump, and I swear I see weird
patterns in the soup of
the guy next to me.
“The wild days must be…”
hidden behind the dead Russian
poet’s expression sprayed on the
bar wall, faded, but I swear
I hear his “Raise higher your
glasses and move them right
now. Long live airy muses and
brightness of brow.”
“The wild days must…”
be read about, and that’s what
the old Herren are doing right
now: One stands at the bar with
his Buch and Wein; the other
sits with his Zeitung and Bier
in between bouts of staring,
“The wild days…”
lie in an unheard decibel of
this afternoon’s patron’s overlapping
voices, in an undetected shade
of color somewhere in the kitschy
pictures of scarved babushkas
and those of obvious communists.
idea that those fake Roman columns and
construction bars, above the bar, and
the massive lit emperor’s head may
fall on me crosses my mind and I
try to interpret the symbolism but
by now I’ve had too much wine.
“The sacred gold rings,”
only to me,
“Let fall through the wine,
sweet and cold.”
But “the wild days must be over
sometime,” and through the peace
before the onset of the night’s
alluring, treacherous, tightening
hold, out through the red curtains,
his words threaten to follow me
but I must leave the soft, coy
yellow glow behind.
“Our Open Mic is an event that takes place at regular intervals at Leipzig venues. It gives everyone the chance to hit to the stage – just tag along to read your poetry and stories or perform your music live. And of course you can perform other people’s work as well.
“Come join us!
“You will meet fellow word-smiths and musicians, and you will be able to bounce ideas off of others and get their feedback. Maybe you can even find new opportunities for expression and publication.