Every so often, I go to a Latvian club in Rīga called Četri balti krekli, where music by only Latvian artists is played. One song that always seems to throw the crowd into a frenzy is this strange tune about windsurfing. At first, I had no idea who performed the song. It was nice enough, if a bit cheesy (especially the English-language chorus: “Surfing, surfing—windsurfing!”). I was surpised to learn that the song is performed by Ingus Pētersons.
From what I knew about Pētersons and his repertoire, I would never have guessed that he was the singer. Pētersons, the artist who in his youth sang slightly more serious songs? Pētersons, the popular singer who abandoned popular music completely to focus on opera? That Pētersons? I didn’t believe it.
But it was true. Though he has had success as an opera singer, his popular songs recorded in the late 1970s and early ‘80s live on, and are being enjoyed by listeners who weren’t even born then.
The recording company MICREC, wisely realizing that there is still a market for these old songs by this older singer, in March released Dziesmu izlase 1979–1982, a career retrospective of Pētersons’ work. The release is part of MICREC’s “Latvijas populārās mūzikas klasika” series. (MICREC competitor Platforma Records in June re-released Pētersons’ first album, Zelta dziesmas šodien in June.)
Up until now, most of these songs were not available on compact disc. One had to go back to scratchy 20-year-old records to find them. Pētersons’ popular music career lasted only about three years, but what a rich three years it was.
The CD collects 22 of Pētersons estrādes songs (“stage” is the most direct translation, but probably translates better as “popular”) from the years 1979-1982. For anyone who listened to the old Mikrofons records back then, many of these songs already will be well known, including classics such as “Par nesatikšanos” (About Never Meeting Again) and “Varavīksne” (Rainbow).
The CD starts off with “Dziesma par skūpstīšanu” (A Song About Kissing), which sounds like it was recorded when Pētersons was a teenager. That’s rather appropriate, as it’s a song about a young guy who has had no luck with the young ladies of the town, and he wonders what he is doing wrong. Hopelessly out-of-date synthesizer sound notwithstanding, this is one of my favorites on the album.
Also on the CD is the aforementioned windsurfing song, “Dziesma par vindserfingu,” which I have grown to like. I originally saw this as just about the cheesiest song in the entire Latvian repertoire, but it is catchy enough that I have even gone as far as to learn to play it on the guitar. “Dziesma par vindserfingu” was originally done as “Windsurfin’” by the Dutch band The Surfers. The Latvian lyrics were written by the well-known songwriter and activist Kaspars Dimiters. The CD booklet contains a biography by Daiga Mazvērsīte, who notes that Pētersons was interested in taking popular songs from outside of Latvia and having them redone in Latvian. Another example is “Mana sirds ir brīva” (My Heart is Free), taken from a Hungarian song.
Another favorite on the album is “Jūra, es dziedu tev,” with music by Raimonds Pauls and lyrics by Jānis Peters. It’s one of many songs that shows not just Pētersons’ range vocally, but also emotionally. On these songs, he is backed by the Latvian Radio Popular Music Orchestra, directed by Alnis Zaķis, or by the Ivars Vīgners Instrumental Ensemble.
Many composers wanted to work with the young Pētersons. As one can see by looking through the credits, practically every important Latvian composer of the day wrote a song for Pētersons, including Pauls, Ivars Vīgners and Uldis Stabulnieks. It is actually a shame that Pētersons left the popular music world so quickly. If he was able to accomplish this much in three years, what could he have done in 10 years or more?
The CD booklet only contains the biography and some pictures. It would have been nice to have the lyrics as well. The sound of the CD is excellent, considering that all these songs are more than 20 years old. Thanks must be given to MICREC for releasing this and many other albums and songs from the classic Latvian popular music repertoire, as well as for spotlighting artists who perhaps aren’t as well known as Pauls. Though some songs clearly show their age, many are still as fresh as when they were released. This album is highly recommended, not just as a historical document, but also as a great collection by one of the great Latvian popular singers.
Dziesmu izlase 1979-1982
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