One of the longest running folk ensembles in Latvia has been Vecpilsētas dziedātāji, a group based out of the Rīga Technical University. The past few years saw the group reach new heights, particularly with the release of their 2013 album Puzurs, featuring songs about the winter solstice.
As the group has evolved and further developed their sound and style, they decided to change their name, and are now known as Daba San (or ‘nature hums’), a name that would more accurately reflect their sound, as many of the songs that they perform have themes of nature.
The group also continued writing and arranging songs, and has now released their first album under their new name – Vaiņags. Continuing the seasonal theme that was on Puzurs, this collection features songs that relate to the summer season, as well as Midsummer.
The ensemble is a large one, the album credits list eleven musicians, with nine of those musicians providing vocals. With such a large ensemble, and with a variety of voices, Vaiņags is a diverse and engaging collection of songs.
Having so many vocalists allows the group to create multi-layered vocal harmonies, such as in the song “Debess kalējs” (folk song with music by Linda Zonne). The distinctive vocal arrangements, in addition to the instrumental accompaniment, provide for a vivid interpretation of this folk song with its metaphorical images of a blacksmith forging in the sky and the coal falling into the Daugava River.
The group takes a cue from their name and applies much of the hum of nature to the song “Dienvidus” (folk song with music by Linda Zonne), which is appropriate, as the song makes mention of the playing of the bees and sun in a clearing. The song, where the vocal is passed between the group members, is about a woman’s hard work on a farm – but though the work is hard, she finds happiness that she can provide an entire barn full of grain as a result.
Pastoral themes continue in the song “Pļavas dziesma” (folk song with music by Solveiga Kaļva), which provides a particularly striking and colorful picture of a walk in a field – silver droplets, green grass, golden dew, with the band members also providing bird sounds to complete the picture.
As many of the members of the group are female, it is then no surprise that often the songs are from a woman’s perspective, or are simply about women, such as “Jūras meitas” (folk song with music by Solveiga Kaļva), a song about how enjoyable life by the sea is, and how the daughters of the sea weave shawls on the waves.
Composer Valts Pūce, who often has used folklore elements in his works (particularly on albums like the collection of choir songs Gadalaiku dziesmas and his Georgian-Latvian folk music synthesis on the album Es arī) assists on the song “Divi” (folk song with music by Linda Zonne and Valts Pūce) about how the rocks and the water together live for all eternity. The folk song texts emphasize the duality of nature in the water and the rock, and Daba San’s performance highlights this expansive and endless natural interaction.
Colorful and lyrical, vivid and mystical, Vaiņags is a thoroughly engaging musical presentation of the Latvian summer. Daba San continue to present themselves as a mature, creative and imaginative presence in modern Latvian folk music. Even though these folk songs have ancient texts, the group, in their layered and multi-faceted musical arrangements, reveal new insights into the power of nature.
For further information, please visit the Daba San Facebook page.
Lauska, LAUSKA CD064, 2016
- Debesu kalējs
- Saule deva savu meitu
- Upes dziesma
- Pļavas dziesma
- Saule zirgus peldināja
- Liju, liju, lietutiņ
- Lietus gaisi
- Vētras deja
- Drosmes dziesma
- Raganu vārdi
- Jūras meitas
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