Monday, April 18, 2011

Two Somerville artists bring poetry and music to the PRECINCT

(Lisa Kaufman-- Somerville Bagel Bard and one of the featured readers)

Two Somerville artists bring poetry and music to the PRECINCT

By Doug Holder

Somerville residents Yani Batteau and Olga Solomita started a poetry and music series at the Precinct Bar in Union Square, Somerville for the month of April (2011)--every Monday night. Such Spoken Word Artists as Angela Counts, Betraz Alba Del Rio, Lisa Kaufman, Judah LeBlang and others have or will read in this new venue. This series will also include musicians of various genres. They hope it will continue at the Precinct or in some form at another venue in the near future. I have interviewed Batteau before, and found she is a multi-talented artist, and musician. Recently I connected with her partner in this venture:

Doug Holder: What was the germ of the idea for the series?

Olga Solomita: Yani Batteau has been working with her band, 'The Styles', for just about one year. Within this year she has worked very hard to establish herself, specifically, as a professional musician. I have been along side her throughout this process. During this process, as Yani has found her voice, I, in turn, after a long hiatus, have begun to find mine again, and in more ways than one. Hence, without knowing exactly what I was looking for, I was searching through Craigslist looking for opportunities for myself as well as Yani. I came upon an ad that was asking for someone who was interested in being the resident band for the month of April at the Precinct, and who was also interested in booking other bands on the same night.I did think it odd when I read it, but rather than wonder too much about why such an opportunity was being put out there, I jumped on it. I responded to the ad instantly even before speaking with Yani, who when once informed that I had already volunteered her, was in. Of course, the resident band would be Yani Batteau and the Styles and the other performers were yet to be determined. Yani and I had several discussions about just what we wanted to happen on these Monday nights. I very much wanted to include a different genre, and in my mind, this was Spoken Word. I attended a night at the Lizard Lounge with the Jeff Robinson Trio in Cambridge to see who might be right. Jeff had already suggested a few artists, but I really wanted to see them first hand. As a result many of the Spoken Word artists chosen for this Month in April have been hand picked based on our completely visceral and subjective responses to their performances at the Lizard Lounge. Since they have been competing for the the national slam finals, I have been fortunate in that I have seen some of the best. I already knew some of the poets as well as their work and hence have invited them to participate based on their work.

DH: I had a reading series some time back at the Precinct. It is an unusual space, an old police holding cell--I believe. Part of its charm--perhaps?

OS: The Precinct is an interesting venue. It was chosen by Yani and I because the opportunity presented itself and we both had seen performances in that space. We also suspected that it would be quite a challenge to not only put together the program, but also to bring in an audience on a Monday night. Our suspicions have been confirmed, but we are none the worse for it and neither it seems are the wonderful and gracious artists that have already performed. We are proud of the program, and despite the frustration in bringing in an audience at this unusual night and place, at least for Spoken Word.

Yes, it is interesting to me that you mention that the space use to be a police holding cell. Everyone seems to mention this about the place, as if it carries the negative karma, or just karma of such an environment. Well, I imagine, some great poems were written in those cells. Didn't Oscar Wilde write while behind bars? I'm sure the blues rang out from those dark spaces. Who knows, opera, even, perhaps. I believe in order for a program to be a 'complete' success, many things have to come together. Luckily, we have had extremely gracious performers such as Scripture, Harlym 125, Nicole Perez, who this time anyway, appreciate the opportunity to perform and as well be in the company of other artists. I absolutely believe that this venue at the Precinct presents a spectacular opportunity for poets and spoken word artists in the future. We have had some incredibly powerful and wonderful poets and spoken word artists that performed as well as some great bands. In order for this program to continue at this venue, It really has to be something the owners of the Precinct want and would require a great deal of collaboration between the promoters and owners. I am not sure this is on their agenda. If it is not, the program should absolutely find a home, even if it is a mobile home. I plan to make sure of this.

DH: Some might say there are already too many poetry venues, etc... in the city of Somerville.

OS: I don't think there is too much poetry in Somerville. There are plenty of poets whose voices should be heard. Why not have as many opportunities as possible?

DH: What is your Somerville connection? Do you consider it the "Paris of New England?"

OS: I lived in Somerville in 2005 and 2006, left briefly and now have returned. I expect to stay in Somerville. I lived in Cambridge for 25 years and loved it, before I moved to Somerville for the first time. I live near Davis now and I have never been so happy in a place. I have never been to Paris, I have to be truthful, so I don't know if I'm the one who should comment on that question, but I will say that this an extremely exciting, beautiful, and complex, in some ways, place. . And it offers so much in the way of the arts and lacks the pedantry of some certain other towns.

DH: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

OS: Oh yes, my background. I am an artist, teacher, writer. I received my MFA in Media and Performing Arts at Mass College of Art in 1989 and Master in Education in 2001 from Wheelock College. I am a photographer, painter, and closet writer, but not for long. I grew up in Cambridge and Newton and come from a large family. My siblings are artists, writers, filmmakers, clinicians and pretty regular and amazing people are some of my greatest influences, but none are so great as my childhood dog, Prince.


Tonight April 18, 2011:

PRECINCT 70 Union Sq. Somerville
We are hosting our Third Spring Masala Monday on the 18th of April with resident band Yani Batteau and the Styles 10:30
with a smashing night of Music and Spoken Word
8:00 Special Appearance Robin Lane of Robin Lane and the
Chartbusters will, rock over folk into new wave will
get your feet moving.
8:30 Nash Satterfield aka Martha Bourne and Steve Mayone
will turn the room 'Inbetwang [misspelling intentional]
Country'...Folk? Rock? Country? ALL OF THE ABOVE
Bourne is a prolific composer/singer/songwriter.
9:45 Spoken Word Poetry

Angela Counts poet, award winning playwright, filmmaker


  1. This is a wonderful article. Great job, Olga, and thank you Doug for profiling this event with the beautiful picture of Lisa Kaufman.

  2. You rock! So proud of you!