Some people have reproached Iļģi for playing Irish, instead of Latvian, music. If you’re one of them, then you’ll have to widen your criticism. With its latest compact disc, Ej tu dejot, Iļģi has branched out to include a bunch more other styles. The band therefore recommends the disc of dances only to people with a sense of humor. The leitmotif—pancakes—says it all.
Pankūkas (pancakes) is a very popular dance in Latvia and often the first one people learn. Listening to the melody over and over and over again, though, can get boring, if not downright annoying. So as any musician would, the members of Iļģi began playing around with the tune in different styles. In the end, they must not have been able to agree on which style to put on the CD, so instead they present 11 versions of the same melody interspersed between the “regular” pieces on the disc: from the rock-n-roll “Hotcakes” to the klezmer “Latkes,” and from the “Pfannkuchen” march to the “Spacecakes” reggae. That, or they just had way too much fun playing around.
Iļģi joked around with the other tunes as well. “Ačkups” reminds me of Hooked on Classics. “Dirižablis” starts out with an almost Greek-sounding accordion, but the Hooked on Classics beat kicks in after the first verse, as it does on the Ukrainian dance “Barabolja” and many more to come. The heartbreaking Estonian melody “Subota” features violin and accordion and sounds suspiciously like a Finnish waltz. “Ģežablis” sounds almost Latin. Klezmer paired with rock gives the slightly monotone “Apaļdancis” an appropriately frenzied sound. Half-way through “Žemaituks” the musicians introduce a minor key interlude. If you’re used to following the melody while you’re dancing, the (very elegant) musical twists that Iļģi throws in here and there may confuse you and your feet. Just concentrate on repeating the step sequences as usual, though, because the measures all line up correctly and the melody usually returns to something familiar again. Other dances included on the disc are “Diždancis” (Apaļais mēness), “Ābelīte,” “Rucavietis” and “Valsis uguns gaismā.” At the very end is a hidden track where you can hear all of the pancakes together in one big, tall stack.
The CD Ej tu dejot (Go Dance Already!) was recorded live in a matter of days during the summer of 2007 at a house deep in the Latvian countryside. Band leader Ilga Reizniece said that they could have continued with the pancake styles all night long, but when they began toying with a Chinese version, they decided to call it quits.
As is typical of Iļģi’s latest recordings, Ej tu dejot is fairly “heavy” with guitars, bass, drum kit and continuous beat. But the violin, accordion and kokle are still there, too, providing for playfulness and lightness. The result is very easy and fun to listen to. Iļģi strives to give Latvian music a modern, worldly spark and leaves the revival of historically and ethnically accurate manners of singing and playing to others. That said, all of the melodies that Iļģi uses as starting points are traditional dance tunes. Oh, and by the way, Ej tu dejot is Iļģi’s first purely instrumental recording.
As you can surmise, the musicians take lots of freedoms with the melodies and arrangements. I especially like the bits of musical humor scattered here and there. For example, can you find the “Drunken Sailor” and “Kālabadi galdiņam” on the disc? My only criticism would be that many of the tracks, particularly the pancake tracks, are too short to really dance to. Blame the limitations of disc capacity.
For more information on Iļģi, visit the band’s Web site at www.ilgi.lv. The site contains descriptions for most of the dances on Ej tu dejot, but they are unfortunately still only in Latvian. English translations ought to be ready soon. If you are in Latvia, the best place to actually try out the dances is at the Rīga Dance Club.
Ej tu dejot
Biedrība Iļģi, 2008
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