The Latvian composer and folklorist Emilis Melngailis wrote in 1949 that the Latvian tradition of drumming had completely died out. But in the same breath he longed for its renewal, coupled with the bagpipes, which complement the drums so well. It seems the time has finally arrived with Auļi and the compact disc Sen dzirdēju.
Auļi is a sympathetic group of young Latvian men and one Estonian woman who play exactly that combination of drums and bagpipes. The group includes Leanne Barbo, Kaspars Bārbals, Andris Buls, Mikus Čavarts, Gatis Indrēvics, Kaspars Indrēvics, Māris Jēkabsons, Edgars Kārklis, Normunds Vaivads and Gatis Valters.
Formed in 2003, Auļi is a relatively new group in the world of Latvian folk music and plays energetic arrangements of traditional music along with a few of its own compositions.
Auļi is great to watch live, because the group members have so much fun on stage. Unfortunately, drums and bagpipes just aren’t the same on a recording as they are live. But it’s still obvious from the 12-track CD that Auļi enjoys creating “bungu raksti” (weaving and craft terminology used to describe drumming patterns) and playing around with all the possibilities of bagpipes. The group rounds out its sound with flutes, the Jew’s harp and singing.
The CD starts out with Auļi’s signature song, “Sen dzirdēju.” It is followed by the whispers and yells of “Cīrulītis.” “Sūda dziesma” is a song in honor of, yes, manure. “Depo” (the calmest song on the disc) and “Pieci” are original compositions for bagpipes and drums, respectively. “Reigi valsis,” “Pāvs,” “Balabaska” and “Apaļdancis” are all dance tunes, the last of which contains some unusual bagpipe effects and harmonies.
There’s no mystery as to why Auļi is popular among a certain segment of the young population. The music and vibrations touch that primitive nerve deep in the stomach.
Auļi’s sound is also unmistakably military. That’s because historically bagpipes and drums have been associated primarily with war. But surprisingly, only two of the songs have texts about going off to battle.
Auļi fits very well into the niche of medieval and folk-metal festivals. So, if that’s your niche as well, and if you don’t mind the constant buzz of bagpipes and driving drum beats, you’ll probably like this CD.
As the liner notes say, the group “makes noise.” But I know plenty of people age 30 and older who like Auļi, and I think my mother will like the group, too.
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