And now for something completely different


I was told that Sirdsgrieži is much different from Biruta Ozoliņa’s earlier recording, Bolta eimu, so I was prepared for something different. Now I am preparing you.

But I don’t know exactly how to properly describe her new sound. Maybe easy listening? Maybe New Age lounge music?  Maybe something jazz-influenced? Because of the folk song content, though, it’s probably considered a type of world music. In any case, the main instruments on Sirdsgrieži are keyboard, bass and percussion. A couple of songs have the traditional kokle for flavor, but the instrument does not make those songs sound any more traditional.

At least the type of songs that Ozoliņa sings has not changed since 1999’s Bolta eimu. They are mostly songs about young women’s lives, with the emotions and doings of courtship and marriage predominating. Not all of the songs are sad—some are even slightly humorous—but the overall mood of the music has a hint of melancholy.

I, of course, particularly like the beginning of the song, “Deļ meiteņu rūzis zīd,” which features a field recording of Marija Golubova, an old Latgallian woman from whom it seems Ozoliņa has learned many songs. Ozoliņa continues the song with the same melody and text that Golubova sings, but takes great liberty in tempo, ornamentation and style. It is hard to decipher whether the other melodies on Sirdsgrieži are also traditional folk songs or Ozoliņa’s own compositions.

The men’s voices at the end of “Nūreib zeme” sound comical and out of place, but in fact do relate well to the lyrics of this light-hearted song. The jingles at the end of “Laimes muote” add a nice touch for the same reason, although I don’t care for the gurgling brook and other nature sounds here and there throughout the compact disc.

After a while all of the songs on Sirdsgrieži start to sound very similar and meld into one another. A few songs with their a capella or kokle beginnings seem at first to promise a change (“Deveņi buoleleņi” and “Par zylū zagiuzeiti”), but sure enough, the keyboard and bass kick in soon after that.

Despite not being too enthusiastic about this album, some of the songs have started to grow on me after listening to the CD several times. I have found that some of the melodies, for example “Pyut viejeņ” and “Pateik man,” get stuck in my head and I catch myself still humming them the following day and the day after that.

I like that the lyrics are written in the liner notes, because all of the songs on Sirdsgrieži are sung in the Latgallian dialect, which is not always easy for us non-Latgallians to understand. But otherwise there is sparse information about the songs or Ozoliņa herself. The notes do include a quote and short excerpt by popular author Nora Ikstena that hint at the emotions involved in developing this recording. Reading a recent Santa magazine interview with Ozoliņa, I learned that her life has not been easy and that this recording may mark a turning point in her life. After all, “sirdsgrieži,” a newly invented word meaning “heart solstice,” implies a time of extremes, a profound change, a turning point.

I have absolutely no complaints about Ozoliņa’s choice of songs or her singing style. It’s the same delicate, fragile, heartbreakingly beautiful voice as before, used this time with even more freedom. But I don’t care for the accompaniment. That said, the author of the above-mentioned interview was very impressed with Sirdsgrieži and enjoyed it very much. I guess it’s just a matter of taste.

Sirdsgrieži is contemporary, relaxing music that is pleasing to many, but not all, ears. Be forewarned, though, that it is completely different from Ozoliņa’s earlier music.



Biruta Ozoliņa

UPE Recording Co.,  2002

UPE CD 039

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