Best known songs performed by Žoržs Siksna released on new CD

Latvian pop singer Žoržs Siksna has, for decades now, been one of the most recognizable vocalists in Latvian popular music. Many of the songs he has sung have been hits and remain well known and are beloved songs even decades later. Though most of his more popular tunes were recorded in the early 1980s, he has remained active, performing and recording, and also enjoyed a resurgence of interest in his music after his appearances on the Latvian talent show Koru kari. To acknowledge his contribution to Latvian popular music, in 2017, record label MicRec released Leģendas, a collection of his best known numbers.

This collection is particularly welcome, since Siksna has had comparatively fewer releases on CD than other singers of that era. One best-of collection, Vasaras vīns, was released in 1995, but also included some newer songs and missed quite a few of his more well-known songs. The Leģendas release (the latest in a series that celebrates Latvian popular singers) is a long awaited, extensive collection that serves as a convincing reminder of Siksna’s singing ability and talents. The album also includes quite a few songs that were previously unreleased on CD.

Among Siksna’s most popular songs is ‘Muļķe sirds’ (composed by Raimonds Pauls), an anxious lament for a foolish heart – though it should be noted that the version on this CD is not the same version as was on the Mikrofons 81 record, which is a slightly slower, more relaxed version of the song. The song was also featured in one of the most popular films in Latvian history – Limuzīns Jāņu nakts krāsā, released in 1981 and directed by Jānis Streičs. The film also includes the dreamy ‘Vālodzīte’, a song Siksna also later included in his repertoire, and Siksna’s version of this song also features the singer playing the clarinet.

Siksna, with his soaring voice and stage presence, has occasionally been described as a ‘Latvian Tom Jones’, and one can occasionally sense that in the mildly flirtatious ‘Genoveva’ and the slightly more amorous song ‘Jel, dod man bučiņ’’. In contrast to the slower and relaxed songs sung by many of his contemporaries, Siksna recorded quite a few up-tempo and energetic songs like ‘Sirdij nevajag skaitu’ and ‘Pasaulīte’.

Siksna also worked with many different composers. As with many artists of that era, most of the songs he recorded were composed by Raimonds Pauls, but this collection includes a number of tunes written by other composers, such as ‘Mātei’ (composed by Ivars Vīgners), ‘Negaidi mani velti’ (Andris Riekstiņš), and ‘Vasaras vakarā’ (Aleksandrs Kublinskis), among others.

Though certainly many of the songs can be considered lighthearted pop music, Siksna’s talents are still evident on some of the more serious numbers, like the sweepingly beautiful ‘Ugunsputns’ or the melancholy and wistful ‘Smeldzošais septembris’. Siksna’s singing prowess elevates these songs – taking what otherwise might be ‘ordinary’ pop songs and turning them into something far more memorable and artistic.

The CD booklet includes a brief biography of the composer by musicologist Daiga Mazvērsīte (in Latvian), as well as a few photographs.

This collection of songs by Žoržs Siksna is yet another worthy entry in the impressive Leģendas series, reaffirming the talents and exceptional vocal ability of the singer. With more than forty years’ experience in performing, he has achieved iconic status in Latvian popular music. This collection is a testament to Siksna’s talents and memorable performances.

For further information, please visit the MicRec Žoržs Siksna page.

Leģendas

Žoržs Siksna

MicRec, 2017

Track listing:

1. Genoveva
2. Muļķe sirds
3. Leonora
4. Vālodzīte
5. Negaidi mani velti
6. Mīļā (Mans kuģis tālu jūrā)
7. Ugunsputns
8. Pasaulīte
9. Jel, dod man bučiņ’
10. Sargeņģelis
11. Baltas ābeles zied
12. Ap Jāņiem Mārtiņos
13. Nepalaid garām
14. Sirdij nevajag skaitu
15. Mātei
16. Mana pirmā dziesma
17. Vasaras vakarā
18. Smeldzošais septembris
19. Herstvuda dziesma (with Mirdza Zīvere)
20. Visskaistākie vārdi (with Ineta Rudzīte and the Jelgava Tirkīzs Choir)

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.

Liepāja-based Zari create hybrid “post folk” on album Sazaroti

The Latvian folk song, through its deceptive simplicity, can easily be presented in many forms – the bi-yearly Sviests samplers includes songs that are inspired by Latvian folk songs, but in an ever-growing variety of genres. There seem to be an endless amount of possibilities for interpreting these ancient melodies, revealing new facets or aspects.

One group that provides a new take on folk song performance is Zari, based out of Liepāja, who perform a kind of ‘post folk’ or ‘electronic folk’ – that is, folk songs presented in a form that, though based on traditional instruments, is supplemented with synthesizers, effects, and electronic instruments, creating a hybrid style with both classic and modern elements.

The group’s efforts are documented on their debut album, 2017’s Sazaroti, released by the Lauska label. The band members are Zigmārs Miemis on effects and synthesizers, Uldis Meļķis on guitars, Vinsents Krebs playing the accordion, vocalists Ieva Dreimane and Liene Križevica, and drummer Sandis Volkovs.

The sweeping ‘Šuvo’, an atmospheric seven minute work based on both folk songs about bird callers (as well as driving away the darkness) and Midsummer, opens the album. This song, which is characteristic of the Kurzeme region where the group is from, captures much of what makes Zari unique, in that there are traditional instruments and singing alongside layered synthesizers to create a rich and engrossing work. The intricate sounds and arrangements even give this song (and others on the album) elements of progressive rock, and may bring to mind the works of Pink Floyd or Peter Gabriel.

According to the group, the name of the band – Zari (or ‘branch’) was chosen because though all the members are part of the same ‘tree’ each musician provides their own, unique ‘branch’ in the music. This can be observed in the intertwining of the two vocalists in songs like the peaceful and meditative ‘Rāmi rāmi’, with Dreimane and Križevica harmonizing and echoing each other, adding to the hypnotic feel of the song.

Accordion and guitar are combined in the haunting ‘Klusiet jauni klusiet veci’, to which are then added a pounding drumbeat, as well as soaring vocals, enhancing the spiritual and otherworldly nature of the song. Effects and synthesizers create memorable musical imagery in ‘Ziemelītis’, a song about sailing and the battle between the sailor and the north wind.

Though much of the album is atmospheric and dreamy, there is still plenty of energy and intensity, such as in the driving drums in ‘Gulu gulu’, as well as the powerful war song ‘Kara gabals (Karajājiņš)’, with its defiantly and resolutely sung ‘Labāk manu galvu ņēm’, nekā manu tēvu zem’ ’’ (Better to take my head than my fatherland).

The group also uses a variety of instruments from a variety of sources, including a banjo which was found on a trash heap as well as a miniature piano that were used in the song ‘Arājiņš (Bastalāvis)’, thereby expanding the already broad sound palette that was used to create the album.

Deftly and intricately weaving together both ancient and modern elements, Sazaroti is an often ethereal, often dreamy listen. Blending together electronic music and sounds, as well as traditional instruments, Zari reveal further facets and aspects of Latvian folk songs. One can hear the effort that went into creating and arranging these songs, based on the extensive layering of the music and effects. As with many other Lauska releases (the label specializes in Latvian folk music albums), this is another exceptional and singular release. The members of Zari have indeed brought together all of their separate branches to form an engrossing, musically layered collection of songs that join together ancient and modern elements.

For further information, please visit the Zari Facebook page.

Sazaroti

Zari

Lauska, LAUSKACD073, 2017

Track listing:

1. Šuvo
2. Ej projāmi ledutiņi
3. Teku teku
4. Arājiņš (Bastalāvis)
5. Kas grib laba kumeliņa
6. Rāmi rami
7. Klusiet jauni, klusiet veci
8. Kara gabals (Karjājiņš)
9. Gulu gulu
10. Ziemelītis
11. Labvakaris
12. Lietiņš

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.

Lieldienu svinēšana Baltikas ciemā Baškīrijā

Klāt pavasaris! Klāt Lieldienu prieks! Lai gan Baškīrijā pavasaris nāk ilgi un ar lielām pūlēm, tas tomēr nāk, un Lieldienas pa kupenām tek tam līdzi. Šogad Baškīrijas latviešiem Lieldienas ievilkās līdz pat aprīļa vidum. Lai! Svētku nekad nav par daudz.

Šoreiz Lieldienu prieku dalījām ar Baškortostānā dzīvojošajiem baltkrieviem, kuri 19. gadsimta beigās no centrālās un austrumu Baltkrievijas pārcēlās uz Baškīriju zemes dēļ. Baltkrievi apmetās Iglino rajonā, kur savukārt jau mitinājās latvieši. Iglino un Arhangele bija divas lielākās latviešu kolonijas Baškortostānā.

Iglino rajons atrodas netālu no Baškīrijas galvaspilsētas Ufas, agrāk – Ufas apriņķis. Tajā vienkopus atradās Austrumciema (visvecākais latviešu ciems Baškīrijā), Ozolciema, Baltijas (tagad Baltikas) ciema, Rīgas, Simbirskas, Baložciema u.c. viensētu kolonijas.

Baltijas ciema koloniju 1885. gadā nodibināja Smiltenes un Raunas ieceļotāji. Latvieši audzēja rudzus, prosu, auzas, kviešus, galvenais ienākumu avots bija lopkopība. 1890. gadā latvieši atvēra savu skolu, pirmajos gados mācības notika latviešu valodā. 20. gadsimta sākumā mācības notika jaunās skolas telpās, tās pirmais direktors bija Kārlis Sville. Ar lielu bijību vietējie latvieši atceras skolotāju Gustavu Gulbi, kurš skolā nostrādājis visu mūžu. Pratis gatavot vijoles, bijis labs dārznieks. Baltijas un Austrumu ciemā bija lūgšanu nami, kuri 20. gadsimta 30-tajos gados pārtapa par klubiem. Baltijas ciema lūgšanu namā strādāja pērminderis Kārlis Gulbis, kuru 1937. gadā apcietināja, un piesprieda 25 gadu sodu izsūtījumā. Līdzīgi kā Arhangeles kolonijas latvieši, arī Iglino tika dibināti orķestri, kori, pat amatierteātri. Pūtēju orķestri vadīja Pēteris Eidiņš, stīgu instrumentu orķestri – Voldemārs Šmits.

Baltkrievi, līdzīgi kā latvieši, 19. gadsimta beigās uz Baškīriju pārcēlās zemes dēļ. 20 gadsimta sākumā uz Baškīriju atceļoja Pirmā pasaules kara bēgļi. Ar laiku jau atbraukušie baltkrievi uz Baškīriju aicināja savus novadniekus, slavēdami Baškortostānas auglīgo zemi. Baltkrievi galvenokārt nodarbojās ar zemkopību, audzēja linus. Saimniekoja tā, kā bija pieraduši to darīt dzimtenē. 20. gadsimta 50-tajos, 70-tajos gados daudz latviešu atgriezās savā etniskajā dzimtenē. Baltkrievi šo iespēju tik ļoti neizmantoja. Baltikas ciema vidusskolas ģeogrāfijas skolotāja Marina Manturova paskaidroja: “Staļiniskās represijās latvieši cieta krietni vairāk nekā baltkrievi, tas bija viens no iemesliem, kāpēc latvieši izmantoja iespēju atgriezties Latvijā”.

Iglino rajons ir vienīgais Baškortostānas rajons, kur dzīvo daudz baltkrievu, tāpēc tika izveidots Baltkrievu Kultūrvēsturiskais centrs, kura paspārnē darbojas pieaugušo un bērnu baltkrievu folkloras ansambļi, muzejs, kā arī bibliotēka, kurā ir pieejamas grāmatas baltkrievu valodā. Baltikas ciema vidusskolā fakultatīvi var apgūt baltkrievu valodu un folkloru. Līdzīgi kā latviešiem Jāņi, arī baltkrievi ļoti labprāt svin vasaras saulgriežus (jūlijā). Tie ir plaša mēroga svētki, kurus apmeklē baltkrievi no citām Krievijas pilsētām un no Baltkrievijas.

Apmeklējot Baltikas ciemu, mani patīkami pārsteidza iedzīvotāju draudzība un mērķtiecība. Par saviem līdzekļiem ciematā ir uzcelta baznīca, ciemats ir sakopts un tīrs. Kluba zālē nebija nevienas brīvas vietas, pie tam, uz koncertu bija atnākuši ne tikai skolēni, bet arī skolotāji. Taču visbrīnišķīgākais bija tas, ka pēc koncerta es iepazinos ar vienu no Baltikas ciema latvietēm Mildu Gulbi. Viņas senči savulaik atbraukuši no Vidzemes.

Baškīrijas latviešu diasporai ir izveidojusies cieša sadraudzība ar ukraiņu un vāciešu diasporu. Kārtējo reizi pārliecinos, ka nedz ukraiņiem, nedz vāciešiem un arī baltkrieviem nav tik ciešas sadarbības un atbalsta ar etnisko dzimteni kā tas ir latviešiem. Uzturēt un saglabāt saikni ar savu etnisko dzimteni ir svarīgi, taču Baltikas baltkrievi savu kultūru un valodu spēj saglabāt arī bez šīs saiknes ar dzimteni. Pirms pāris gadiem ugunsgrēks iznīcināja Baltkrievu etnogrāfisko muzeju, vietējie to ir atjaunojuši. Baltkrievu folkloras ansamblis “Sjabri” vairākkārt ir ieguvis “Tautas ansambļa” godu.

Baltkrievus un latviešus vieno kas kopīgs. Tā ir spēja svešā vietā neaizmirst sevi un spēt par to runāt un stāstīt tik ilgi, kamēr sadzird un apjauš, ka mēs esam tāda saujiņa ne savējo. Šai baltkrievu saujiņai tas ir izdevies lieliski. Saglabāt savu kultūru un valodu laikā, kad līdzekļu trūkumu dēļ daudz kas apstājas, ir liela māka. Mēs varam tikai mācīties, kā to paveikt. Gribas ticēt, ka šī saikne ar uzņēmīgo, viesmīlīgo un draudzīgo tautu nepārtrūks.

Ilona Saverasa ir skolotāja, kas māca latviešu valodu un kultūru Sibīrijā.