Music of Latvia

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Traditional Latvian music is often set to traditional poetry called dainas , featuring pre-Christian themes and legends, drone vocal styles and Baltic psaltery.

Latvia Republic in Northeastern Europe

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

Music form of art using sound and silence

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

A daina or tautas dziesma is a traditional form of music or poetry from Latvia. Lithuanian dainas share common traits with them, but have been more influenced by European folk song traditions. Latvian dainas often feature drone vocal styles and pre-Christian themes and legends, and can be accompanied by musical instruments such as Baltic psalteries . Dainas tend to be very short and are usually in a trochaic or a dactylic metre.



Latvian men's folk ensemble "Vilki" performing at the festival of Baltic crafts and warfare "Apuole 854" in Apuole Castle mound, August 2009 Latviu senovinio folkloro grupe Vilki.2009-08-22.jpg
Latvian men's folk ensemble "Vilki" performing at the festival of Baltic crafts and warfare "Apuolė 854" in Apuolė Castle mound, August 2009

Traditional Latvian folklore, especially the dance of the folk songs, date back well over a thousand years. More than 1.2 million texts and 30,000 melodies of folk songs have been identified. [1]

Folklore Legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, etc.

Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as tales, proverbs and jokes. They include material culture, ranging from traditional building styles to handmade toys common to the group. Folklore also includes customary lore, the forms and rituals of celebrations such as Christmas and weddings, folk dances and initiation rites. Each one of these, either singly or in combination, is considered a folklore artifact. Just as essential as the form, folklore also encompasses the transmission of these artifacts from one region to another or from one generation to the next. Folklore is not something one can typically gain in a formal school curriculum or study in the fine arts. Instead, these traditions are passed along informally from one individual to another either through verbal instruction or demonstration. The academic study of folklore is called folklore studies, and it can be explored at undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. levels.

Folk music Music of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

Dainas are very short, usually only one or two stanzas, unrhymed and in a four-footed trochaic metre. Lyrically, dainas concern themselves with native mythology but, in contrast to most similar forms, do not have any legendary heroes. Stories often revolve around pre-Christian deities like the sun goddess Saule, the moon god Mēness and, most notably, the life of people, especially its three most important events - birth, wedding and death (including burial). The first collection of dainas was published between 1894 and 1915 as Latvju Dainas by Krišjānis Barons.

Hero Person or character who combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength

A hero is a concept that may be found in classical literature. It is the main or revered character in heroic epic poetry celebrated through ancient legends of a people, often striving for military conquest and living by a continually flawed personal honor code. The definition of a hero has changed throughout time. Merriam Webster dictionary defines a hero as "a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities." Examples of heroes range from mythological figures, such as Gilgamesh, Achilles and Iphigenia, to historical figures, such as Joan of Arc, Giuseppe Garibaldi or Sophie Scholl, modern heroes like Alvin York, Audie Murphy and Chuck Yeager, and fictional superheroes, including Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

Solar deity Sky deity who represents the Sun

A solar deity is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and Sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms. The Sun is sometimes referred to by its Latin name Sol or by its Greek name Helios. The English word sun stems from Proto-Germanic *sunnǭ.

Saulė Baltic solar goddess

Saulė is a solar goddess, the common Baltic solar deity in the Lithuanian and Latvian mythologies. The noun Saulė/Saule in the Lithuanian and Latvian languages is also the conventional name for the Sun and originates from the Proto-Baltic name *Sauliā > *Saulē.

Latvian traditional folk song "Div' dūjiņas gaisā skrēja" performed by Lizete Iesmiņa-Mihelsone.

Latvju tautas mūzikas materiāli, translated in English as the Materials of Latvian Folk Music is the anthology and commentary of Latvian folk. It analysed 5999 items of Latvian ethnography published in 6 editions from 1894 to 1926 by the Latvian musicologist and composer Andrejs Jurjāns (1856–1922). [2] [3]

Andrejs Jurjāns was a Latvian composer and musicologist. He was Latvia's first classical composer, having composed instrumental pieces and cantatas. Jurjāns also studied and collected more than 6000 pieces of Latvian folklore, among them 3000 songs, which he compiled in six books, called Latvju tautas mūzikas materiāli.

Latvju tautas mūzikas materiāliSestā grāmata (the sixth book) was published posthumously in Riga, 1926. On page 1 latvju komponistu biedrības izdevums is inscribed, translated as the Latvian Society of Composers edition. [4]


A postmark issued by the Latvian Post in 2014 featuring Latgale kokles Pastmarka kokle.jpg
A postmark issued by the Latvian Post in 2014 featuring Latgale kokles

Accompaniment to the village songs is played on various traditional instruments, the most important of which is the kokles, a type of box zither related to the Lithuanian kanklės and other Baltic psalteries. In the 1970s, artists like Jānis Poriķis and Valdis Muktupāvels led a revival in kokles music, which had only survived in the Courland and Lettgallia regions. The Latvian-exile community abroad, especially in the United States, has also kept kokles traditions alive. In the last hundred years a new kind of kokles was developed, with many more strings, halftones levelers and other improvements that expand the capacities of the instrument to play not only modal music but, in other point of view, displeased more traditional musicians. This kind of instrument is called "concert kokles". However, there is currently only one maker of concert kokles left, though he is to begin training apprentices with the help of EU grants.

The box zither is a class of stringed instrument in the form of a trapezoid-shaped or rectangular, hollow box. The strings of the box zither are either struck with light hammers or plucked. Now, the most popular plucked box zither is the Arab qānūn and its various derivatives, including the harpsichord.

Lithuania Republic in Northeastern Europe

Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is considered to be one of the Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Kaunas and Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, the other being Latvian.

Kanklės Lithuanian plucked string instrument (chordophone) belonging to the Baltic box zither family known as the Baltic psaltery

The kanklės is a Lithuanian plucked string instrument (chordophone) belonging to the Baltic box zither family known as the Baltic psaltery, along with the Latvian kokles, Estonian kannel, Finnish kantele, and Russian gusli.

Classical music

Choirs performing during the 24th Latvian Song and Dance Festival in 2008. Latvian song festival by Dainis Matisons, 2008-2.jpg
Choirs performing during the 24th Latvian Song and Dance Festival in 2008.

Choir traditions are very strong in Latvia. Alongside many professional choirs, there are tens of thousands of Latvians who are part of different amateur choirs. Once every five years the Latvian National Song and Dance Festival takes place with around 20,000 singers taking part in it.

The 2014 World Choir Games took place in Riga.

This year (2019) Latvia hosts the inaugural Riga Jurmala Music Festival, a new festival in which world-famous orchestras and conductors perform across four weekends during the summer. The festival takes place at the Latvian National Opera, the Great Guild, and the Great and Small Halls of the Dzintari Concert Hall. This year features the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Russian National Orchestra. [5]

During the Soviet era, rock music became extremely popular, because it, as well as folk songs, offered a chance to rebel against the local authorities. Imants Kalniņš was the most important composer of the time, and his songs were extremely popular. He also wrote music for the movie originally called Četri balti krekli ('Four White Shirts'), later given the title Elpojiet Dziļi! ('Breathe Deep!'), which spoke about the need of freedom and was therefore banned. One of the most important social gatherings of the time was the annual Imantdiena ('The Day of Imants (Kalnins)'), forbidden on grounds of interfering with hay-gathering. The tradition continued informally at the composer's house.

The songs of Imants Kalniņš were best known as performed by the Menuets group which only played songs by this composer. Most of the members of the group moved on to form another group, Pērkons ('Thunder') later. Pērkons was a symbol of rebellion. They played fascinating rock and roll bordering on hard rock music, composed by band's leader Juris Kulakovs, using poems mostly written by Māris Melgalvs. Many of those were strongly disapproved by the Soviet authorities, as they implied the ridiculousness of the system. The most famous concert by Pērkons resulted in the destruction of a train compartment by the young people who had attended the concert. This, as well as other events, is portrayed in the movie Is It Easy to Be Young? by Juris Podnieks. Acts such as Pērkons certainly played an important role in the lives of the youth of the time and were a serious challenge to the Soviet system.

Nowadays, the pop music sphere is dominated by pop music (e.g., Prāta vētra, also known as Brainstorm) and alternative rock.

List of composers and bands in Latvia

Composers of contemporary music [6] Rock or (and) PopOther

See also

Related Research Articles

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Kokle Latvian folk instrument

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  1. "Welcome to Latvia – Folk Songs". 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  2. "Materials of Latvian Folk Music. Vol. 6".
  3. "Composers and Authors /Jurjans, Andrejs (1856–1922)".
  4. "Materials of Latvian Folk Music. Vol. 6" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-13.
  6. "Music in Latvia". Retrieved March 9, 2012.


  1. "Materials of Latvian Folk Music. Vol. 6".