Australian-Latvian creates and performs Latvian folk song arrangements

Guitarist, singer, songwriter and arranger Ivars Štubis is an Australian Latvian who performs a blend of folk and rock music, and often includes Latvian elements in his music and creates arrangements of Latvian folk songs to add to his repertoire.

Štubis has released two recordings, the first was 2016’s Young Blood, and the second was a mini-album of Latvian folk song arrangements entitled Tek saulīte in 2017. Almost all of the songs are just guitar and vocals, with some occasional percussion.

Young Blood is mainly songs in English, but has three Latvian folk song arrangements. Many of his songs have themes of relationships and making one’s way in the world. The combination of Štubis’ vocals and guitars are the ideal presentation form for these personal and introspective kinds of songs, such as the hopeful ‘Long Road’, where the singer stays positive in the face of life’s adversities, or the philosophical ‘Love for War’ (a duet of Štubis and singer Ella Mačēns).

Štubis is not just influenced by Latvian folk songs, but folk songs from other cultures, and this is displayed on the rousing performance of the traditional American song “Gracie” (also known as “I Wish I was a Mole in the Ground”).

Tek saulīte has five Latvian folk song arrangements, three of which are with vocals, while two are instrumentals. The mystical “Lēni, lēni Dieviņš brauca” is enhanced with Štubis’ guitar work, giving the song a mysterious, perhaps even ominous, feel. A similar result is achieved on his version of one of the most beloved of Latvian folk songs – “Tumša nakte, zaļa zāle”, a song that is at once sad and hopeful, and Štubis’ guitar work and vocals give this song the necessary tenderness and solemnity.

Some may find it disconcerting to have rock songs in English side by side with Latvian folk songs (particularly those that might not speak Latvian). However, as all the songs have the common thread of Štubis’ guitar and vocals, the transitions between the two types of songs are not as abrupt as one might think – there is a musical and melodic flow in these recordings. Some might even see how the one type of music influences the other – the melancholy of the Latvian folk songs flowing into his own songs (traces of the mood of “Tumša nakte” in the wistful “If You Find Her”), while his exuberant and vibrant guitar playing perhaps transfers into his folk song performances (the lively guitar of “A Former Life” then inspiring the rousing arrangement of “Āvu, āvu, baltas kājas”)

Štubis is performing throughout Latvia in July 2018, including stops in Liepāja, Rīga, as well as the festivals Muzykys Skrytuļs in Līksna and Vārti in Pope. Štubis has also expanded his musical horizons by working with Latvian choirs in Australia, including the Melbourne Latvian Men’s Choir “Veseris”, with whom he will be performing on July 3 at the Latvian Central Library on Brīvības iela.

Ivars Štubis guitar and songwriting/arrangement talents are quite evident throughout both Young Blood and Tek saulīte, blending Latvian influences with folk influences, as well as deft, intricate guitar arrangements, and these all make for an enjoyable and engaging listen. Being just guitars and vocals, the songs are at once intimate and personal, revealing the many facets of Štubis’ songwriting and arranging talents. His folk song arrangements display an accomplished ability to bring out new aspects of these centuries’ old songs, while still maintaining the essence of these traditional and beloved melodies. Štubis is a rare talent, and these two records are vivid confirmation of his versatility and abilities as a singer, guitarist, songwriter and arranger.

For further information, please visit Ivars Štubis’ Facebook page.

 

Young Blood

Ivars Štubis

2017

Track listing:

  1. Young Blood
  2. Long Road
  3. The Sea is Asking
  4. Seši jauni bandenieki
  5. Gracie
  6. Eastern Love
  7. A Former Life
  8. Kas spīdēja kas vizēja
  9. If You Find Her
  10. Out of Line
  11. Love for War

Tek saulīte

Ivars Štubis

2018

Track listing:

  1. Lēni, lēni Dieviņš brauca
  2. Tumša nakte, zaļa zāle
  3. Āvu, āvu baltas kājas
  4. Tek saulīte
  5. Jūriņ prasa

 

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.

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