Latest Prāta vētra album is proof of group’s vitality and skill

Prāta vētra, internationally known as Brainstorm, have, for the past few decades, been undisputedly the most successful of Latvian popular artists. Regularly selling out stadiums and arenas in Latvia, their albums and shows continue to find a wide audience within Latvia.

In 2018, the group released their latest album – Par to zēnu, kas sit skārda bungas – and, much like the many albums before it, it was a hit, and was followed up by well-attended concerts, including a concert attended by more than 60,000 at the Rīga Mežaparks Open-air Stage. The group has achieved international success as well, particularly in Russia (the group regularly release three versions of each of their albums – in Latvian, English and Russian).

The group formed in 1989, and released their first single in 1992. The group members include Renārs Kaupers on vocals, Jānis Jubalts on guitars, Kaspars Roga on drums, and keyboardist Māris Mihelsons. As on their previous albums, the bass guitar is performed by Ingars Viļums.

The album begins with the appropriately percussion heavy, even frantic title track. Partially inspired by the Günter Grass novel ‘The Tin Drum’ (and not the first Prāta vētra song to find inspiration there – the English language song ‘Tin Drums’ off their Četri krasti album was also similarly inspired), the song, with its energetic beginning and almost manic energy, sets the stage for the songs to follow, indicating that the group have no intention of slowing down after their career, which spans many decades.

Being, by far the most successful Latvian recording artists of the past few decades, Prāta vētra are able to bring in top international talent to oversee their recordings, and on this album, the producer is Povel Olsson from Sweden. The polish on this record is notable, though at times perhaps a bit overly slick, for example on the song ‘Ogles’, where the extensive and expansive synthesizer sounds and arrangements might remind some listeners of the equally synth-heavy songs of the earlier album Kaķēns, kas atteicās no jūrasskolas. Even so, the song, with its catchy melody, is one of the highlights of the album.

Over their many albums, Prāta vētra have experimented with many different musical styles and sounds, often times with success, but the funk elements on the song ‘Šokolādes saldējums’ sound a bit out of place with the rest of the songs on the album. Lyrics like ‘šokolādes saldējums – kā glazūra sirds lūzt’ (chocolate ice cream – my heart breaks like frosting) may make some listeners cringe as well.

The record concludes with what might be the group’s most unabashedly patriotic song, ‘Pirmais latvietis uz mēness’, a song that references the swell of emotion on seeing the Latvian flag after being away for a while, as well the singing of ‘Saule. Pērkons. Daugava.’, which is always one of the culmination points of any Latvian Song Celebration concert. The song foretells a time when a grandfather and grandson watch together as the first Latvian lands on the moon. The song, at once patriotic and inspiring, is an aptly fitting ending for this collection of songs.

Now in their third decade of recording and performing, Prāta vētra show as much vitality and songwriting skill on Par to zēnu, kas sit skārda bungas as they did on their earlier efforts. Still regularly filling stadiums in Latvia, the group’s words and music still affect listeners both young and old. Prāta vētra prove again that they are without peer or parallel in Latvian popular music. Certainly, some listeners will long for the quirkier, more off-beat songs of their early career, as Prāta vētra have journeyed a long way from their rougher, less polished beginnings, but Par to zēnu holds its own against their earlier albums, and is a worthy entry in their already rich discography.

For further information, please visit the Prāta vētra website.

Par to zēnu, kas sit skārda bungas

Prāta vētra

BRCD239, 2018

Track listing

1. Par to zēnu, kas sit skārda bungas

2. Ogles

3. Pašu dārgāko

4. Tevis dēļ

5. Kas būs – būs

6. Šokolādes saldējums

7. Paralēles

8. Как Я искал тебя

9. Draugam

10. Bezgalīgs stāsts

11. Pirmais latvietis uz mēness

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.

Popular ‘Tautumeitas’ ensemble release ethno-pop folklore album

One of the most notable events in recent years in Latvian folk music has been the debut of the ensemble Tautumeitas. As their name implies, the group gathers together six ‘folk girls’ who perform songs inspired by Latvian folk songs and folklore. Their first recording, Lai māsiņa rotājās!, was performed together with the drum and bagpipe ensemble Auļi, and the group’s proper first debut album, simply entitled Tautumeitas, was released in 2018.

In just a few years, the ensemble has become one of the best known and most popular folk ensembles, and have even appeared in a commercial for the Latvian national airline airBaltic. The members of the group are Asnate Rancāne (violin, voice), Aurēlija Rancāne (drums, voice), Ilona Dzērve (accordion, voice), Lauma Bērza (violin, voice), Laura Liepiņa (percussion, voice) and Laura Marta Arāja (percussion, voice). The album also features additional musicians and instruments, such as brass instruments and cello. Integral to the album’s sound is also producer, percussionist and arranger Reinis Sējāns.

Though they use many elements from Latvian folklore in their songs, it is still a thoroughly modern album, and one might consider the songs to be a kind of ethno-pop style of world music.

As all six members of the group are singers, it is then no surprise that the vocals are the main focus for the musical offerings. The importance of singing is echoed in the first song, the appropriately titled ‘Sadziedami’, where the powerful vocals are supported by a thunderous musical accompaniment while the ensemble sings ‘sadziedam mēs, māsiņas’ (let’s sing together, sisters!)

Inspired by the Krustabas ritual (or Latvian folk Christening), the song ‘Pāde’ is a song about self-growth. The ritual of the ‘pādes dīdīšana’, where the one being christened is passed around in the arms of the invited guests, is meant to pass along positive thoughts from the guests. In this song, as with many of their songs, Tautumeitas use the mystical aspects of Latvian folk rituals to create a richly layered song, with help from Reinis Sējāns, who provided the arrangement.

Though much of the album is energetic and exuberant, there are moments of calm and tenderness, such as in the song ‘Pelīte’, a soothing, entrancing lullaby. The song tells of a mystical mouse that brings sleep to small children, and shows that the ensemble are equally versatile in both more active songs, as well as calmer and more peaceful songs like this one. Similarly, the somber ‘Raudi raudi’, a song about a boy crying, as the maiden will not come to him, is one of the album’s more intimate moments.

Other highlights include the rhythmic ‘Aiz azara’, sung in the Latgallian dialect, the catchy and infectious ‘Dai citas meitas’,  and the mystical, almost ritualistic ‘Raganu nakts’, a vibrant song about witches travelling the land during Midsummer.

Vibrant and vivacious, Tautumeitas’ debut album is both enjoyable and refreshing. With their powerful voices and harmonies, the group has established themselves as one of the premiere ensembles in Latvia. Combining elements of Latvian folklore with modern elements, the ensemble has woven together an engaging collection of songs.

For more information, please visit the Tautumeitas website.



ONAIR Studios


Track listing

  1. Intro
  2. Sadziedami
  3. Pāde
  4. Raganu nakts
  5. Vainagu deja
  6. Bērziņš
  7. Pelīte
  8. Raudi raudi
  9. Sastdine
  10. Ūgas
  11. Bārainīte
  12. Aiz azzaru
  13. Dai citas 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.

Talented family of Latvian folklorists release debut album “Variācijas”

Latvian folk singer Asnate Rancāne has, in recent years, become one of the most prominent folk performers in Latvia. Though known best for her work for the ethno-music group Tautumeitas, she works with a wide variety of ensembles, lending her voice and talents to projects such as Op. 2 with double bass player Stanislav Yudin and the new recording of Uģis Prauliņš’ Pagānu gadagrāmata with the men’s choir Gaudeamus.

Perhaps it is no surprise at all that she should be so active in the Latvian folk music scene – she comes from a singularly talented family of folk performers. Gathering their copious knowledge of folk music, as well as musical and arrangement skills, the family came together to form the group Lata Donga and released their debut album Variācijas in 2018. The group’s name is formed from the Sanskrit word ‘lata’ (which can mean ‘flower’ or ‘girl’) and the Latgalian word ‘donga’ (meaning ‘corner of a room’), which is appropriate, considering the feminine nature of many of the songs on the album. Asnāte Rancānce is joined by sister Aurēlija Rancāne (also of Tautumeitas), as well as mother Aīda Rancānce and father Andris Kapusts.

The album title Variācijas (or ‘Variations’) is also quite appropriate, as the ensemble performs songs from many different regions of Latvia, as well as in a multitude of styles – presenting both traditional and modern arrangements. The result is a broad spectrum of Latvian folk music, performed authentically and with deep conviction, as befits a family that has been immersed in folk music and traditions for generations.

Traditional elements can be heard in songs like the vibrant ‘Cel vārtīnus’, with its lively kokle introduction, as well as ‘Lineņi’, which captivates with beautiful harmonies.

The album also includes midsummer songs, such as the powerful ‘Es leiguti’, an a capella arrangement that features vocals from all the family members, which is then followed by the meditative ‘Juoneits guoja’. The song, enhanced by the synthesizers of Uģis Vītiņš and double bass of Stanislav Yudin, is of a more mystical and spiritual nature, with an almost dreamlike quality.

‘Ganu dziesma’ is an immersive atmospheric sound landscape, meant to convey the songs of shepherds as they herd their flocks, calling to each other from a distance. The arrangement is supplemented by the eerie sounds of the zvanga, played by Tobias Illingworth as well as Yudin’s double bass.

World music influences, particularly Middle Eastern sounds, can be heard in the driving ‘Sastdiņ guoju’, an almost trance-like pastiche of various elements, and also includes traditional instruments, such as the darbuka, performed by Asnate Rancāne. In a similar vein is the song ‘Zaļā suodeņā’, which features the sarod, an Indian stringed instrument performed by Sergejs Ancupovs.

The album concludes with perhaps the most modern arrangement, that of the song ‘Tumša nakts’ (which is a variation of the well-known Latvian folk song ‘Tumša nakte’, but with slightly different melody and words), dramatically sung by Kapusts and Illingworth, with Kapusts also playing the bagpipes. Featuring extensive use of synthesizers (provided by keyboardist and arranger Uģis Vītiņš), this sweeping interpretation brings the album to an epic conclusion, with this song about travelling a dark night with one’s horse, but with broader themes of mortality and eternity.

Blending together the many different facets and aspects of Latvian folk songs with both modern and traditional instruments, as well as the occasional element of world music, Variācijas is not just a satisfying panorama of Latvian folk music, but also a virtuoso performance by one of the most talented families of musicians in Latvia. Displaying their versatility with songs of different styles and eras, Lata Donga excel in both traditional and modern performances, revealing the many possible variations of Latvian folk songs.

For further information, please visit the Lauska Lata Donga page.


Lata Donga

Lauska, CD079, 2018

Track listing:

  1. Cel vārtīnus
  2. Rūtoj bite
  3. Es leiguti
  4. Juoneits guoja
  5. Pupucīte
  6. Jānīt’s sēde
  7. Ganu dziesma
  8. Locīdama es dziedāju
  9. Ērkulītis
  10. Spieļoj pīci
  11. Vysi kūceņi
  12. Ar laiviņu
  13. Sastdiņ guoju
  14. Lineņi
  15. Zaļā suodeņā
  16. Tumša nakts

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.