Allure of ancient Latvian folksongs on new Tautumeitas CD

In just a few short years, the ethno-pop ensemble Tautumeitas have become one of the most celebrated ensembles in Latvia. Combining a traditional Latvian singing style with modern sounds and instruments, as well as giving performances and recording videos that include striking Latvian folk costumes and intricate headdresses and crowns, Tautumeitas continue to enchant listeners not just in Latvia, but worldwide (the group recently returned from a tour of Japan in the summer of 2022).

Building on their success, Tautumeitas released their latest album – Skrejceļš – in 2022. The ensemble is led by Asnate Rancāne, who is joined by Aurēlija Rancāne, Ilona Dzērve-Tālute, Laura Marta Līcīte, Laura Vārpiņa, and Gabriēla Zvaigznīte.

The album is imbued with a rhythmic energy, particularly songs like ‘Guli guli’, a raucous song built on a percussive foundation, as well as the pulsating ‘Mežā’, a song about a girl who prefers to sing in the forest, rather than in the fields.

Latvian celebrations and rituals also figure in many of the songs, such as the celebration of the winter solstice in ‘Spodrē manu augumiņu’. The celebratory, resonant performance also includes many mystical elements from Latvian folklore.

The album does have its more mellow, somber moments, like ‘Ružiņu duorziņā’, where the group sings over a simple, bell-like piano melody. The song, about a girl parting with her family, rises with intensity, and the performance by Tautumeitas is filled with a deeply felt sadness and regret.

Though almost all the song texts are taken from Latvian folk songs, the song ‘Muoseņa’, a collaboration with Prāta vētra vocalist Renārs Kaupers, also includes new lyrics. The dreamy, thoughtful song, about a girl pondering her future, is ornamented by the rich instrumentation that combines modern instruments and more ancient instruments like the Latvian kokle.

One of the odder songs on the album is ‘Rise up!’ a tribute to Marija Golubova, who was from the Latgale region of Latvia and was known for her stories and singing (an album featuring her stories and songs – Marija Golubova: Stāsti un dziesmas – was released in 2003) and clearly, she was an inspiration to Tautumeitas. What makes the song unusual is that the first half of the song has funk and jazz elements (which may remind some listeners of many of Raimonds Pauls’ songs from the 1970s), but then transitions to a more traditional Latvian folk performance. Golubova’s voice is heard throughout the track.

Another song with an unexpected twist is ‘Ritual’, a song about a girl getting ready to get married to a suitor from a distant land. Though the mother is crying, the girl says she will not be far away. The song then turns into a driving, thunderous performance with elements from the Bulgarian folk song ‘Кавал свири’ – (The Kaval is Playing – the kaval being a Balkan flute) so presumably the girl is far away in Bulgaria. This transition, though slightly startling, makes for an immersive, almost hypnotic mix of both Baltic and Balkan elements.

Expanding their sound palette even further on Skrejceļš, Tautumeitas retain the allure of ancient folksongs and present them in modern settings to exceptional artistic and musical effect. Energetic and lively, driven by the powerful voices and harmonies of all the singers in the group, this collection continues the ascent of Tautumeitas as one of the most original and talented ensembles in Latvia.

For further information, please visit the Tautumeitas website



TM03, 2022

Track listing:

  1. Vīna ūtrai
  2. Arājiņš
  3. Panama
  4. Guli guli
  5. Muoseņa
  6. Rūžiņu duorziņā
  7. Spodrē manu augumiņu
  8. Ritual
  9. Mežā
  10. Rise up!
  11. Suņi rēja
  12. Skrejceļš
  13. Dziedat, meitas!

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . 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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