Bērnu un jauniešu talantu konkurss trešo reizi Īrijā notiks 18. oktobrī

Gada jaukākais notikums latviešu bērniem Īrijā  - 3. Latviešu bērnu un jauniešu Īrijā talantu konkurss “Protu? Protu!” – notiks 18. oktobrī, plkst.13.00 Portadown town hall, Portadown, Īrijā.

Programmā paredzēts gan konkurss trīs vecuma kategorijās (jaunākā, vidējā un jauniešu grupa), kā arī dalībnieku darbiņu izstāde un izsole. Konkursam sekos dalībnieku ballīte, kuras noslēgumā paredzēta konkursa uzvarētāju apbalvošana.

Konkursā piedalīsies Latviešu biedrības Īrijā (LBĪ) mūzikas studija/skola “Mazais letiņš”, LBĪ skola “Saulgriezīte”, LBĪ Navanas latviešu skolas un jauniešu apvienības ”Impulss” folkloras un teātra studija, LBĪ Portlīšas latviešu skola “Sauleszaķēns” vokālā grupa, LBĪ Portadown latviešu skola” Zīļuks”, Korkas latviešu skola “Grāmatputns”, Droghedas latviešu skolas”Burtiņš” vokālā grupa un deju kopa, Dublinas bērnu deju kopa “Dzirnaviņas”, Ziemeļīrijas Montessori dienas skola un Killicomain HJS  Portadown Juram Gavero Musik Lesson.

Konkursu organizē Latviešu biedrības Īrijā izglītības nodaļa, sadarbībā ar lokālo pašvaldību, Craigavon Borough Council, un lokālo latviešu kopienu, LBĪ Portadown latviešu skolu “Zīļuks”.

The Road to Latvian Citizenship

A week ago I voted for the first time as a Latvian citizen. I can’t put into words the satisfying feeling of completing my first official civic duty. I’ve always felt that political participation (even if only by voting) is one of the top tools to use to make an impact on society around you. Now I’ve finally been able to participate in shaping the society around me with the tools available to citizens.

This year, at the ripe age of 25, I voted for the first time in Latvia. Not because other years I’ve been lazy, but because thanks to alterations in the dual citizenship law, this summer I became a citizen of Latvia. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I’ve finally made it, and have a few thoughts that I’d love to share, as well as address some frequently asked questions. What does Latvian citizenship mean to me? What do I need it for in the first place? What am I going to do with it now?

For those who don’t know, I’m born in Canada, and 8 years ago I came to Latvia to study, and then later, to work. The entire time I wasn’t a citizen of Latvia, so I had to apply for residence permits to stay in the country. The parliamentary vote in October of 2013 to allow dual citizenship allowed me to apply for Latvian citizenship based on my Latvian heritage on my mother’s side.

Knowing that your country wants you

At a time when one of the most relevant topics in Latvia is its demographic status, mass-emigration, I decided to go to Latvia. I’ve always classified myself as a Latvian, spoke Latvian at home with my mother and brother, went to Latvian school on weekends, camps, folk dancing, etc. Therefore it came as a surprise that in different Latvian systems it was incredibly complicated, difficult, and time-consuming to take care of the bureaucratic formalities. At one point it was even suggested that I “voluntarily leave the territory of the Republic of Latvia” (but that’s another story).

The decision to allow dual citizenship was an important moment for me – I found out that the law was accepted while I was at work. I have to admit that I shed a few tears of happiness. I hoped that none of my colleagues would see me in the moment of weakness, though in retrospect I wouldn’t call it weakness. Luckily, this moment stayed between me and the open page of the local new site. But why was it such an important moment? Because my country had finally acknowledged that they want me. And don’t we all want to be loved?

What next? Political activity and paying taxes

I’ve always believed that Latvia is the land of opportunity – not the US, as most people think. If you go to the States, is it possible for anyone to become president? No, you have to be born in US territory. Not to mention if you don’t have the right education, don’t come from the right family, don’t have a massive amount of sponsors, you probably won’t make it very far. Unfortunately it would be a long-shot in Canada, too.

In Latvia everything is accessible. Jobs, businesses, people. You can attain anything, if only you want it enough and work at it (it sounds cheesy, but it’s true). I never thought in a million years that I’d have the honour to draw and design the symbols that would be painted on the Latvian Olympic bobsleigh. But it happened. I’ve also met the past three presidents face-to-face. In Latvia, it’s no big deal. Everything is so accessible. What’s in my future? Right now it’s too soon to say. Definitely with political activity, which had been denied to me because of my lack of citizenship. I’ll take every opportunity to vote. Maybe even later I’d consider being a candidate. I’d also like to start by own business. To take the reins into my own hands and direct my own professional development. Also so that I could create small projects and pay taxes fairly (keep an eye our for these AWESOME t-shirts that I’ll be unveiling soon!). Paying taxes is a pretty important thing to do – if you don’t pay taxes, then you can’t complain about things like the quality of roads, healthcare, pensions, and teacher salaries. We’re a link in the chain, and if the first link is broken, then there can be no hope that the money gets to where it needs to be. Let’s start with our own chain link, and then work on the rest.

I’m not naive enough to believe that Latvia is paradise and that there are no problems here. There are all sorts of challenges, but us citizens have to make it a place that we want it to be. So how about we put a little effort into it? I want this country to be a place where I want to be.

Double standards – I’m still Canadian

I’ve had quite a bit of criticism about wanting citizenship, the argument being, that if I really wanted Latvian citizenship, then I could’ve simply renounced my Canadian citizenship and applied for Latvian citizenship without a problem. I understand that I don’t have a satisfactory answer to this question, but I’m not ready to completely renounce my rights to my country of birth, to cut all ties with the country where my closest family and childhood friends live. I also still don’t know where the rest of my life will be spent, so it seems silly to take such a finite decision, possibly too soon. Is it not enough that I consider myself Latvia, that I live here, and want to participate in the development of society?

This is an extract from Julia Gifford’s blog, published on October 14, 2014. The blog post was also in Latvian.

Tribute to Šverns, Godfather of Latvian Indie Music

Though perhaps not reaching similar commercial heights as other popular Latvian artists, the band Baložu pilni pagalmi, in their long and prolific career (having just released their 10th studio album – Stacija mums in 2014) the group became one of the most significant and influential bands in the Latvian alternative rock scene.

The creative force behind Baložu pilni pagalmi for twenty years has been vocalist and guitarist Māris Šverns. Šverns and Baložu pilni pagalmi over the years gathered a devoted, if comparatively small, following, and inspired many future Latvian underground musicians to try their craft in songwriting.

Recognizing the singular influence of Māris Šverns and his status as godfather of Latvian indie music, a number of both well-known and lesser known artists pay tribute to the songwriter on the 2014 album Brāļi un māsas. Sixteen groups provide their unique interpretations of Šverns’ songs, reflecting the varied and diverse nature of Šverns’ works.

Elizabete Balčus, who was awarded the ‘Best Debut’ Latvian music award in 2011, begins the albums with an dreamy, string drenched interpretation of the song ‘Smarža’, along with a soaring vocal performance.

The groups collected on the album are often difficult to pigeonhole in one single genre, much like Šverns himself. For example, Oranžās brīvdienas, who combine heavy guitars and a horn section, perform a jumpy version of ‘Tava māja’, with staccato horns alternating with bass guitar. Though Šverns’ lyrics might at first seem simplistic, they belie deeply personal emotions and feelings.

Quirky Baložu pilni pagalmi contemporaries Inokentijs Mārpls, performing what could be called ‘Latvian hardcore’, perform a blistering version of ‘Nebija vēja’, combining distorted guitars and growling vocals in their inimitable style.

Sniedze Prauliņa, daughter of Latvian composer Uģis Prauliņš, performs a Tori Amos imbued rendition of “Labākā šaipus piena ceļa”. Joining Prauliņa is Edgars Šubrovskis,  the vocalist of Latvian indie stalwarts, the unfortunately disbanded Hospitāļu iela. Šubrovskis, who initiated this project and also selected the artists that appear on the record, returns with his new band Manta to perform an Eastern flavored version of ‘Kūkojam’.

In a collection that contains many unusual recordings, one of the most unexpected performances is by the choir Juventus, who recorded an a capella choir version of Šverns’ song ‘Mans zirgs’. The soaring harmonies by the female voices beautifully balance the melody song by the tenors, and may remind the listener of a similarly successful choir song arrangement – that of Renārs Kaupers’ ‘Mazā bilžu rāmītī’. The plaintive song about a horse, with its deceptively childlike words and music, turns out to be a fitting song for a choir interpretation, as the voices alone reveal the tender beauty of the song.

The Brāļi un māsas collection features not only artists from Latvia, but also diaspora Latvian artists, proving the global influence of Šverns’ songs. Swedish Latvian group Alis P performs their rendition of “Katru rītu”, and veteran American Latvian alternative group Mācītājs on Acid perform an appropriately fuzzy version of “Katru minūti”.

Yet another example of the genre-bending reach of Šverns’ songs is the performance of the song “Iela, pa kuru tu ej” by jazz rock ensemble Pieneņu vīns, with jazz style vocalizations that at once seem out of place, yet, at the same time, seem perfectly appropriate to the song.

Māris Šverns, a guiding light for so many alternative and indie musicians in Latvia, along with Baložu pilni pagalmi, continues to build on his 20 year legacy of personal and individualistic songwriting. Brāļi un māsas is an appropriately eclectic tribute to an eclectic songwriter.

For information about Brāļi un māsas, please visit this website and more about the band Baložu pilni pagalmi can be found here.

Brali un masas

Track listing

  1. Smarža – Elizabete Balčus
  2. Tava māja – Oranžās Brīvdienas
  3. Radiohīts – Stūrī Zēvele
  4. Cilvēks tik uz pus – Satellites LV
  5. Nebija vēja – Inokentijs Mārpls
  6. Romāna varonis – Gaujarts
  7. Labāka šaipus piena ceļa – Sniedze Prauliņa
  8. Meitene – Anna Ķirse, Māris Butlers, Toms Auniņš
  9. Mans zirgs – Koris Juventus
  10. Kūkojam – Manta
  11. Katru rītu – Alis P
  12. Pavasaris – Laika suns
  13. Katru minūti – Mācītājs on Acid
  14. Iela, pa kuru tu ej – Pieneņu vīns
  15. Tik vēlu – Frontline
  16. Mans lepnums – Sonntags Legion

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area who lives in Rīga, Latvia. When not working in the information technology field, he sings in the Latvian Academy of Culture mixed choir Sõla, does occasional translation work, and has been known to sing and play guitar at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs in Old Rīga. Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.