Latvian-Azerbaijani singer’s collection of lullabies meditative, soothing

LEILALI, or Leila Alijeva, is a singer, songwriter and arranger of both Latvian and Azerbaijani descent. LEILALI performs in meditative and calming style, fusing both Latvian and world elements into her songs. Her first album, Samtainā tumsa (or ‘Glowing Dreams’) was released in 2018, and is a collection of lullabies inspired by the music of many different world cultures.

As the title and song list would indicate (all the songs have either ‘dream’ or ‘lullaby’ in their titles), this will be a very placid and reserved collection of songs, all of which are quiet, even fragile – a kind of meditation or calm reflection. The artist describes the songs as being ‘full of unconditional love, care and acceptance to calm and support the soul’. On the album, Alijeva is joined by storyteller Inin Nini, guitarist and clarinetist Viesturs Melders, and Laura Melne performing additional instruments.

The artist also indicates the inspiration for each of the works, such as ‘Invocation of Dreams’, which was inspired by South American ceremonies and traditions. The minimalist performance, with just a few, sparse notes from the guitar and a repeated mantra of ‘nei nei nei’ brings the listener to a trance like state, the first step in the journey to the dream world.

‘God’s Lullaby’ begins with night sounds, which then leads into an a cappella chant, inspired by the indigenous South American tribe the Yaminawá, which then leads into a plaintive melody combined with a whispered Latvian child’s lullaby, which then gradually dissipates at the end of the song.

‘Lullaby from the Soul of the East’ begins a four song sequence that is inspired by lullabies from the four corners of the Earth, beginning with a song inspired by ancient Persian wisdom. The CD booklet contains little information about what LEILALI is actually singing about, which certainly adds to the mysteriousness of the performances, but one does occasionally wish that she added a bit more information about the inspiration for the songs, if not a translation of the words.

‘Lullaby from the Soul of the West’ then follows, inspired by a Native American song, and is a shamanistic song backed by rhythmic, pulsating drumming. ‘Lullaby from the Soul of the South’ has Balkan elements, combined with a whispered Latvian text, is accented with a mournful clarinet melody.

Latvian elements can be heard in the concluding song, ‘Lullaby from the Soul of the North’. With folk song quotations, along with a slow tolling of a gentle bell, the song then reaches a crescendo (which, for this album, is a very reserved crescendo), with the repeated refrain of ‘visapkārti-i gaisma ausa’ (the light dawned all around), and then floats off into a dreamy state at its conclusion.

LEILALI’s Samtainā tumsa is a soothing and immersive listen, at once deeply spiritual and pensive. Even though it is a quiet and reserved, the explorations of lullabies with world elements provides for a peaceful and relaxing journey.

For further information, please visit the LEILALI Facebook site.

Samtainā tumsa


Lauska 2018

  1. Invocation of Dreams
  2. Dream Ceremony
  3. Lullaby from the Heart
  4. God`s Lullaby
  5. Mother Earth`s Lullaby
  6. Lullaby from the Soul of the East
  7. Lullaby from the Soul of the West
  8. Lullaby from the Soul of the South
  9. Lullaby from the Soul of the North

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.

Pianist Toms Ostrovskis vividly presents Alfrēds Kalniņš’ works on new album

Latvian composer Alfrēds Kalniņš (1879–1951), was a prolific composer and active musician, composing more than 900 works in his lifetime. His best known work is the opera Baņuta (the first opera to have a libretto in Latvian), and for his work in this field he is considered to be the founder of Latvian national opera.

Kalniņš also composed extensively for solo piano. Many of his piano works are brief miniatures, but in their brevity they display his many influences and world experiences. Kalniņš travelled extensively, studying in St. Petersburg, worked in Estonia, and also spent six years in New York as a choir conductor. Recognizing the riches in Kalniņš’ piano compositions, pianist Toms Ostrovskis recorded an album of them, entitled Moments Musicaux (Musical Moments) which was released in 2018 by the Latvian national record label Skani.

The album begins with a collection of works simply entitled ‘Septiņi skaņdarbi’ (or Seven Pieces), composed between 1913 and 1915. From the somber, yet tender ‘Pie drauga kapa’ (At a Friend’s Grave – dedicated to composer Emīls Dārziņš), to the rousing and energetic ‘Albuma lapiņa’ (Album Leaf) and the triumphant and exuberant fourth Musical Moment, dedicated to poet Rainis, Ostrovskis reveals the many nuances and details within Kalniņš’ works.

Alfrēds Kalniņš’ ‘Septiņas poēmas’ (Seven Poems), composed between 1917 and 1918, musically present the composer’s state of mind during these years of war, particularly the stormy second Poem, which Ostrovskis presents with full dramatic turmoil. However, this tempest is balanced by the melodic third Poem, perhaps indicating a peaceful lull during those turbulent times. The reflective and appropriately poetic seventh Poem brings this cycle to a gentle close, almost like a lullaby.

Kalniņš remained in Latvia after the end of World War II, and continued to compose, such as the ‘Četri kapričeto’ (Four Capriccietti), written between 1946 and 1949. These works, though gathered together, are all quite distinctive and do not easily fit together in a programmatic sense. From the dance like ‘Vivo’ and the changing moods of ‘Piacevole’ and the slightly tense ‘Allegro moderato’, Ostrovskis provides engaging interpretations of these diverse compositions.

The album also contains some of Kalniņš’ compositions for children in a collection entitled ‘Trīs gabaliņi albumam “Jaunībai”’ (Three Small Pieces for the Album “For Youth”). The pastoral and rapid ‘Pie strauta’ (By a Brook) and the playful ‘Dziesmiņa’ (Little Song) are then followed by ‘Vecais koklētājs’ (The Old Kokle Player) where Ostrovskis imitates the sound of a Latvian kokle on the piano, and features brief musical quotes from Latvian folk songs.

Emīls Dārziņš once remarked that Alfrēds Kalniņš’ ‘developed a sincere wish to … find his own, unique but very Latvian musical expression’ and this is reflected throughout the twenty-one piano compositions included on Moments Musicaux. Though most are under three minutes in length, they still contain a broad world of emotions painted with a varied palette of colors. Pianist Toms Ostrovskis vividly presents these musical moments, crafting an immersive musical performance that present the many facets of Kalniņš’ compositional style. Ostrovskis, who is a member of the piano department at the Latvian Academy of Music, also wrote all of the liner notes for the CD booklet, and these reveal Ostrovskis’ deep personal connection with and understanding of Kalniņš’ piano music. Kalniņš did achieve his desire to find his own Latvian musical expression, and this record confirms Alfrēds Kalniņš’ significant contribution to Latvian piano music.

For further information, please visit the Skani website.

Alfrēds Kalniņš – Moments Musicaux

Toms Ostrovskis, Piano

Skani 069

Track listing

Septiņi skaņdarbi / Seven Pieces

1. Pie drauga kapa – Emīla Dārziņa piemiņai – Andantino, mesto

2. Albuma lapiņa – Augustam Dombrovska kungam – Con brio, jubiloso

3. Rudeņa pievakarē – Lugubre

4. Muzikāls moments – Allegretto

5. Muzikāls moments – Moderato, semplice

6. Muzikāls moments – Allegro moderato

7. Muzikāls moments – Rainim uz 30.VIII. 1915

Septiņas poēmas / Seven Poems

8. Allegretto

9. Agitato ed appassionato

10. Andantino

11. In modo di valse lente

12. Tranquillo

13. Moderato

14. Leggiadro

Četri kapričeto / Four Capriccietti

15. Vivo

16. Piacevole

17. Allegretto

18. Allegro moderato, ma risoluto

Trīs gabaliņi albumam “Jaunībai” / Three Small Pieces for the Album “For the Youth”

19. Dziesmiņa

20. Pie strauta

21. Vecais koklētājs

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.

Latest album by Vilkači full of warrior spirit

Vilkači, who describe themselves a ‘folklore and ancient battle ensemble’, endeavor to perform Latvian folk songs in an authentic and traditional manner. For nearly 20 years, the group has not just sung folk songs, but have researched ancient Latvian traditions and trades. They also wear authentic period garb and even demonstrate battle techniques as part of their performances to provide further authenticity and realism.

Their most recent album, 2018’s Karavīru audzināj’, collects Latvian folk songs about war. With Latvia’s long history as a battleground for larger powers, there is an extensive collection of songs about being a soldier and going into battle, as well as songs about the heartbreak for the families of the fallen. The group, who often sing unaccompanied or with just percussion, evoke the spirit of the soldier throughout their interpretations.

The deliberate drumbeat of war punctuates the song ‘Padziedāsim, nu, bāliņi’, a song about preparation for war and the uncertainty of what lays ahead – how some will fight in battle while others lay in graves. Vilkači capture both the bravado and dread of soldiers prior to their departure.

The single voiced ģīga (or bowed zither) provides a somber background for the song ‘Pati māte savu dēlu’, an appropriate accompaniment for a song about a mother dressing her son for war. The soldier is also certain that he will not return, adding an element of resignation to this weighty song.

Though not specifically about war, ‘Elle, elle kunga rija’ is a song about the hardship and difficulty of working for the local lord, and about the oppressive heat of working all day in the lord’s barn. This torturous work could be considered a kind of preparation for the horrors and misery of war.

The rousing ‘Kur kungami tādi vīri’ praises the men that are setting out for war, with exaggerations of how the young men can move mountains with their chests and carry oaks in their arms, while the tragic ‘Bāriņam nav tēva’ is about the sad fate of an orphan in war, how he has no one to tell his sorrows to.

With their attention to detail and meticulous research, Vilkači ensure that their interpretations and performances of these folk songs about war and battle are not just authentic, but also respectful and reverential for the many soldiers and others who gave their lives in the many centuries of war that have plagued Latvia. The songs on Karavīru audzināj’,while often tragic and heartbreaking, are still full of warrior spirit, and are a tribute to Latvian soldiers throughout history.

For further information, please visit the Vilkači Facebook page.

Karavīru audzināj’


Lauska CD 084, 2018

Track listing:

  1. Padziedāsim, nu, bāliņi
  2. Pati māte savu dēlu
  3. Es uzkāpu kalnā
  4. Jātnieciņa dēliņš biju
  5. Elle, elle kungu rija
  6. Gatavs manis kara zirgis
  7. Nu ar Dievu, zaļa zāle
  8. Ūziņas
  9. Kur kungami tādi vīri
  10. Bāriņam nav tēva
  11. Eita meitas ielaižati
  12. Karā iešu es, māmiņ

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.