Latgallian album is fun, but confusing

A German-influenced word in Latvian describes this compact disc well: lustīgs. Basically, it means “fun.” Gonam gona (The Shepherd Has Had Enough) by Laimas muzykanti is a combination of pumped-up Latgallian songs and tender, other-worldly melodies, with a winter solstice song added at the end for good measure.

It’s real folk music, but updated by the addition of bass and percussion on nearly every track. The quick folk-rock accompaniment got to me a little by the end of the CD, but there was enough variety in the middle to break it up. A synthesizer is also used, mostly as tasteful background for the quieter songs. All in all, I enjoyed the CD.

Artūrs Uškāns, who plays about nine instruments on this CD, is the head man behind Laimas muzykanti (Laima’s musicians). Another name that some may recognize is the young Kristīne Kārkle, who plays violin and lends her distinctive, wonderful voice to the group.

The CD begins with a Cajun-flavored song about a young man telling a girl to get ready to marry him, and it is followed by another fun wedding song. But then comes the girl’s point of view: ambivalence and even sorrow about marriage. Luckily, it sounds like she needn’t have worried, because in the next song, “Toli dzeivoj,” the young man vows to never love another. Then she sings a song about singing, and then it’s his turn to tell how well he gets along with her mother. Next, the fragile and tender sound of “Kur gaismeņa” is deceptive: the girl has made up her mind to get married despite her young age. Men’s voices add a nice harmony, and the result is almost like a choral arrangement. But, of course, the girl is nevertheless sad to leave her home, as heard in “Spūža saule.”

By the 10th song, with its rock beat and risque lyrics, I assumed we must be back at the wedding festivities. “Not more grunting a la UPE’s Alus dziesmas CD,” I thought, upon hearing the 12th song. But a look at its title—“Dzārojeņš” (Drunkard)—and it made perfect sense. In the next-to-last song, “Sasukoju bāru zyrgu,” a girl snubs a guy, and he says he’ll find another girl elsewhere. Is the wedding off? Is this about another couple? Or am I just reading too much into this CD? In any case, the CD ends with a winter solstice song, an odd ending to a collection of mostly wedding and love songs. But it does sound good with the folk-rock accompaniment.

The small Latgallian-Latvian glossary at the back of the liner notes helps decipher the texts. But other than that there are no additional explanatory notes, nor is there anything written in English. And, by the way, the photographs of the shepherd and her charges are great!


Gonam gona

Laimas muzykanti

Izteiksme,  2002

On the Web

Laimas muzykanti

Official Web site of Laimas muzykanti, with background on the group, samples of songs, and other material. EN LV

Laimas muzykanti

Background on Laimas muzykanti from Ansis Ataols Bērziņš’ Web site. EN LV RU

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *