Folk song golden oldies compilation a winner

Lini un draugi Dzied pazīstamas latviešu tautas dziesmas

The “oldies but goodies” of Latvian folk songs on one compact disc has for a long time been an elusive compilation to track down. We’re talking the basic songs and rotaļas, the staple of all Latvian gatherings the world over, such as “Nu ardievu, Vidzemīte,” “Div’ dūjiņas gaisā skrēja,” ” Kas dārzā,” “Skaisti dziedi, lakstīgala,” “Līgo laiva uz ūdeņa,” “Rīga dimd” and many others that have been sung for decades. And, more importantly, without all the bells and whistles of fancy musical arrangements and modern interpretations—just the good old songs that are always in the repertoire when the chance to get together and sing arises.

The two-disc Lini un draugi Dzied pazīstamas latviešu tautas dziesmas is exactly this.

Lini is a Latvian folk ensemble, established in 1994 by four second-generation Latvian-Americans, based in Minneapolis: Ingrīda Erdmanis, Gunta Pone (now Herron), Amanda Zaeska (now Jātniece) and Zinta Pone. The folk singers say of themselves, “When our parents and grandparents were forced to leave Latvia during World War II, among the few things they could take with them were their folk songs. During the early years of exile in the Displaced Persons camps and later in their adopted homelands, not a single celebration, party, or gathering took place without singing. Latvians continue to sing these well-known songs and pass them on to their children and grandchildren.”

All the singers have grown up immersed in Latvian music in their childhood (some of their parents are part of the long-standing Minneapolis folk group Teiksma) and have innate musical talent. Their voices are not specially trained to perform choral works: these are the voices of four wholesome Latvian women, melodic and still sounding youthful. The accompaniment is simple and at the same time effective: an accordion in one song, the sweet sounds of the Latvian kokles, or the guitar in another, with a tambourine adding rhythm to the song. Quite a few of the songs are sung a capella and performed so well that an instrument would only have interfered and “stolen the show” and detracted from the pure vocals.

Some songs are sung with a larger group—the “friends” of Lini—invited to join in and help create the atmosphere of get-togethers in the exile Latvian communities of the 1950s and 60s. According to Jātniece, “W@e wanted to recreate the mood experienced by our parents and their friends back in their youth in the early years in the U.S. We were actually surprised how much we enjoyed the process of recording these songs, that had been sung ad nauseum in our childhood. It was a real thrill to explore them as an adult.”

This compilation of “the best of” Latvian folk songs is a good resource for various reasons. For one, it is a fantastic educational resource. It can be used by Latvian schools, both in Latvia and outside, for the words and tunes to classic folk songs and rotaļas (dancing games). These are the building blocks for the repertoire of every young Latvian. Start with these songs, teach them so he or she knows them by heart, and your child or pupil will be well on their way.

Then there’s a few other scenarios, such as the adult who learned these songs in their childhood, many moons ago, and now only remembers brief snippets, or the tune and not the name of the song, or maybe a few words but not the tune. This CD can help piece together the missing links and provide answers to these musical riddles. The CD is also perfect for the non-Latvian learning about Latvia and its language, culture and history, or the second- or third-generation Latvian who never learnt the language and culture in their childhood and is now on the journey of finding their roots. And last, but not least, there’s the Latvian who simply wants a handy CD with all the standard folk songs in one place.

The CD was produced in the U.S. with the financial support of the American Latvian Association Cultural Foundation.

More information about the CD can be provided by Zinta Pone in Minneapolis,


Lini un draugi Dzied pazīstamas latviešu tautas dziesmas


Lini,  2009

Where to buy

Purchase Lini un draugi Dzied pazīstamas latviešu tautas dziesmas from BalticShop.

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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.

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