“Mielavs un taurētāji” features new interpretations of Mielavs’ work

Singer and songwriter Ainars Mielavs, through his work with the band Jauns mēness, as well as through his solo career, has become one of the most recognisable talents in Latvia. For more than 30 years now his songs have been an integral part of Latvian popular music.

With this kind of experience, Mielavs has a certain amount of artistic freedom to pursue and investigate different aspects and interpretations of his songs. One recent, perhaps unusual, choice that he has made is to create new musical arrangements of his songs – this time backed by a brass band. Appropriately entitled Mielavs un taurētāji (Mielavs and the hornblowers), a play on the name of Mielavs’ solo group ‘Mielavs un pārcēlāji’, the ensemble released an album of these new interpretations in 2017. All of the songs were arranged by long time Mielavs collaborator, guitarist Gints Sola.

Joining Mielavs (vocals, harmonica) on the album are Jānis Porietis (trumpet), Raivis Māgurs (tuba), Artūrs Šults (French horn), Kaspars Majors (trombone) and Edgars Bārzdiņš (trumpet), as well as Juris Kroičs on percussion. The group first began performing together in 2016, and their first concerts were at the K.K. fon Stricka Villa in Riga.

One might think that these performances might be stereotypical ‘oom-pah-pah’ Oktoberfest versions, but that is not at all the case – Sola’s arrangements are both tasteful and respectful, and present these well-known songs in a different light. According to Mielavs, his interest in brass instruments has been with him since he was five years old, which is when he discovered his grandfather’s trumpet.

The brass arrangements are often intimate and tender, like in this new interpretation of the song ‘Reizēm’, where the horns create a light and slightly sentimental atmosphere for the song, particularly the trumpet harmonies. There is a similar effect on this new interpretation of one of Jauns mēness’ best known songs – ‘Piekūns skrien debesīs’ – the original, with its kokle was a more mystical performance, while this new version is more direct and personal, without losing the calm intensity of the original.

New facets are revealed in Mielavs’ ballads as well, for example the new version of one of Mielavs’ most popular solo songs – ‘Tu saviļņoji mani’. The brass band offers a finely woven background for this interpretation, at the same time adding a playful element to the music. Though many of the songs are slower and somber, there are lively moments, such as in the bouncy ‘Zem varavīksnes tilta’, particularly the energetic tuba performance.

Mielavs also included a few songs by other artists as well, such as ‘Bože hraņi poļarņikov’ by Russian songwriter Boris Grebenshchikov, and the album concludes with a combination of the popular Latvian song ‘Es zinu visi mani nievā’ and ‘Slava Aleluja’ (the Latvian version of the US Civil War anthem ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’).

The album is quieter than one might have expected, and, like much of Mielavs’ solo work, quite reserved. Brass instruments can of course be quite loud and powerful, and it would have been interesting to hear an arrangement of a more up-tempo song like ‘Kad mēness jūrā krīt’ or ‘Pārcēlājs’. And, at just slightly more than thirty minutes, the collection is briefer than one might have hoped – considering the many dozens of songs Mielavs has recorded, the listener is left wanting a bit more.

Mielavs un taurētāji is a quite pleasantly surprising collection – though many of the songs are quite well known, these are new and fresh interpretations of them. These performances reconfirm Mielavs’ strengths as a songwriter and singer – even with this non-traditional accompaniment, the songs remain vital and captivating.

For further information, please visit the Mielavs un Pārcēlāji website.

Mielavs un taurētāji

Upe, MP004, 2017

Track listing:

    1. Varbūt
    2. Piekūns skrien debesīs
    3. Paņem mani
    4. Atpogā manu kreklu
    5. Reizēm
    6. Tu saviļņoji mani
    7. Bože hraņi poļarņikov
    8. I Love You
    9. Zem varavīksnes tilta
    10. Es zinu visi mani nievā/ Slava Aleluja

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area who lives in Rīga, Latvia. When not working in the information technology field, he sings in the Latvian Academy of Culture mixed choir Sõla, does occasional translation work, and has been known to sing and play guitar at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs in Old Rīga. 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.

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