Australian ensemble adds its own flavor to folk songs

Pumpura iela

The Brisbane-based kokle group Zigrīda Ansamblis has just released its long-awaited first compact disc. The ensemble has been playing for quite a few years and has recently spread its wings to not only play to a local audience but is well known in the Latvian-Australian community from coast to coast. The group has played at national youth gatherings called Jaunatnes dienas, as well as the more widely attended Kulturas dienas, a multi-generational gathering of Latvians in Australia. This first CD showcases the versatility and fusion of modern and ancient sounds that make Zigrīda Ansamblis unique.

With only eight tracks, the CD might seem to be quite short, but on closer scrutiny each individual musical piece can be imagined as a course in a banquet. The flavour of each separate morsel must be savoured, the nuances of each piece must be discovered and enjoyed before the sweet sounds of the next song make their presence felt. Just as a banquet should not lead to overindulgence, for a CD the right balance must be found so the length and variety of music don’t overstimulate the senses. This CD has achieved just that.

The melodies are not all instantly recognisable; they’re not all the standard kokle-type songs everyone has heard over the years. The use of voice, percussion instruments as well as the base kokle all add an extra element making each musical piece a finely polished gem. At the same time, however, there is a sense of continuity as each song flows into the next and gives the album a feeling of unity and wholeness.

“Mēness ņēma saules meitu” and “Ačkups” are the more traditional pieces and bring back memories of folk dancing performances of years gone by, while “Iebrauca saulīte” is an original fusion of percussion (washboard and drum), kokle and voice, showcasing Zigrīda Ansamblis’ talent in acoustic arrangement. The lesser-known version of “Seši mazi bundzenieki” also makes good use of the drum as an instrument in a Latvian folk song.

The CD cover shows good design elements and evokes a truly “Latvian” mood with the use of the traditional symbol of Latvia’s agrarian heritage—wheat stalks and the subdued brown and green earth tones that are so characteristic of the summer colours visible in the countryside in Latvia.


Pumpura iela: From Seed to Bloom

Zigrīda Ansamblis

Zigrīda Ansamblis,  2006

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

2 thoughts on “Australian ensemble adds its own flavor to folk songs

  1. The integrity and dedication to the Lativan folk music tradition shown by the members of Zigrida Ansamblis is a truly impressive achievement. The Lativan Community (particularly those in Brisbane) should be extremely proud of this group of young women who are not only continuing the legacy of Lativan music, but contributing their own musical talent and insights into the contemporary Lativan Music experience.

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