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.
Lauska CD 084, 2018
- Padziedāsim, nu, bāliņi
- Pati māte savu dēlu
- Es uzkāpu kalnā
- Jātnieciņa dēliņš biju
- Elle, elle kungu rija
- Gatavs manis kara zirgis
- Nu ar Dievu, zaļa zāle
- Kur kungami tādi vīri
- Bāriņam nav tēva
- Eita meitas ielaižati
- Karā iešu es, māmiņ
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