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WORLD AND FOLK MUSIC NEWS

New Album from Srdjan Beronja: Sounds Of The East: Master Musicians, Hissing Cobras and a Dawn Chorus

New Album from Srdjan Beronja: Sounds Of The East: Master Musicians, Hissing Cobras and a Dawn Chorus

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New Scorsese Movie ‘Silence’ features music by master Japanese drummer, Joji Hirota

New Scorsese Movie ‘Silence’ features music by master Japanese drummer, Joji Hirota

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Hanitra’s inspiring new album ‘Lasa’ – from the heart of Madagascar

Hanitra’s inspiring new album ‘Lasa’ – from the heart of Madagascar

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Songs from the traditional treasure chest of Serbia and The Balkans

Songs from the traditional treasure chest of Serbia and The Balkans

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Focus on: Latvia

Latvian folk songs are based on the Daina, a traditional form of Latvian poetry, usually consisting of just one or two unrhymed stanzas with a strict metre. The content of the Dainas range from ancient mythological themes, addressing pre-Christian deities like the goddess Sun (Saule) and the gods Moon (Mēness) or Thunder (Pērkons), to descriptions of everyday life on an agricultural farm - work, cattle, annual celebrations, and most notably, the life of people, especially its three most important events: birth, wedding and death (including burial). These songs can be very personal, reflecting on the experiences and emotions of an individual, they also can tell a mythical story, or praise the beauty of the surrounding nature and express ethical and philosophical values. The cyclic processes in nature and in human life are the framework within which the actions take place in folk songs. Many folk songs are sung on a special day - during summer solstice (Jāņi), Easter or Christmas.

Latvian folk music groups today often focus on a specific aspect or type of song - be they mythological themes, war songs, wedding songs, women's songs, work songs, ritual celebration songs, etc. Traditionally these songs were sung with almost no instrumentation. They were a means of communication, sometimes over far distances - across wide fields or rivers and lakes. Instrumental accompaniment was mainly used for dancing music. Nowadays, as folk songs enter the stage, they are often arranged with instruments, be they traditional Latvian instruments - e.g. kokle (a zither-like plucked string instrument, related to the Finnish kantele), wooden flute, bagpipe, ģīga (a Latvian 2-string fiddle), mandolin, accordion and fiddle, but also modern electric and acoustic guitars, synthesizer, percussion, drums, etc. In Latvia the word "post-folklore" was invented to describe this kind of music.

Historically the folklore movement of the 1980s, when Latvian folklore groups were formed to revive the ancient songs and traditions, played a significant role in the so-called National Awakening of the Latvians, which led to the regaining of national independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Large scale festivals like the International Folklore Festival BALTICA in 1988 and the Latvian Song Festival in 1990 were key events when folk song expressed the striving for independence and a strong cultural identity.

Latvian folk songs have found their way into the repertoire of a wide variety of musical projects. These can be professional classical compositions, choir music, jazz and rock music, even heavy metal, but also theatre and dance productions and shows. But still there are many musicians and folk groups who develop their repertoire by thorough research, finding long-forgotten melodies in archives and field recordings and even doing their own field research among older people in the countryside.

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