For Latvia’s music industry, February will close out with a couple of big bangs. Eirodziesma 2004, the competition that will choose Latvia’s representative to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Turkey, is scheduled Feb. 28 in Ventspils. But before that event, the year’s best recordings will be honored in a Feb. 21 ceremony in Rīga that may hold special meaning for some Latvians abroad.
The “Latvijas mūzikas ierakstu Gada Balva” honors are sponsored by the Latvian Music Producers Association (LaMPA). Like other awards, such as the Grammys in the United States or the Brit Awards in the United Kingdom, the Gada Balva honors recording artists across several categories.
All the major recording companies in Latvia—Baltic Records Group, Mikrofona ieraksti, Platforma Records and UPE Recording Co.—are represented this year, as are a few smaller labels. The largest company, Mikrofona ieraksti or MICREC, has the most nominations, 26 across the 18 awards categories. Platforma is second with 17 nominations, while Baltic Records and UPE each have 14 nominations.
The Gada Balva doesn’t name an overall “album of the year,” but selects the best songs or albums in various categories in three divisions: major nominations, regular nominations and special awards.
In the major nominations division, the best songs and albums will be named in the genres of rock, modern rock, pop, dance music, hip-hop, and schlager or country.
The hip-hop category may be of special interest to Latvians in the United States. The Chicago-born rapper Delete, who started his career in Detroit, is nominated twice in the best hip-hop song category. One nomination is for “I Gotta Hold On” which he performs with the singer Erica Jennings on his album You’re Not Alone (released by Platforma), and the other is for his collaboration on “Tu vēl esi dzīvs,” performed with Pamatinstinks, Ray, KRF and Flip M.
However, the categories that will receive most attention undoubtedly will be those that name the best rock and best pop songs and albums. And those could be toss-ups. Nominated for best rock album, for example, are Prāta Vētra for A Day Before Tomorrow, Dzelzs vilks for Ļauj man tevi…, Fomins & Kleins for Muzikants (which includes the title track that was the only song in Latvian in last year’s Eirodziesma contest), the pagan-metal band Skyforger for Pērkoņkalve, and alt-rockers Z-Scars for Starp tevi un mani. While it may be very likely that Prāta Vētra adds another award to its résumé, it would be fun—if not a bit shocking—to honor Skyforger.
In the best pop album category, I’m cheering for Ainars Mielavs and Dzīvais porcelāns. Like previous Mielavs albums, it takes some getting used to, but offers listeners a number of well-crafted songs that sound as fragile as the album’s title. Mielavs is up against four other nominations, including the self-titled album from the new group Cosmos (released by Mielavs’ company, UPE Recording).
In the regular nominations division, the awards include best contemporary folk music album, best academic music album, best instrumental, film or theatre music album; best children’s music album, and best music video.
I’m confident Kaza kāpa debesīs, the latest UPE release from the post-folk group Iļģi, will win the contemporary folk music album award. It’s just a great album by a consistenty great group. But the independently released Gonam gona by Laimas muzykanti (released by Izteiksme) as well as Extravagance, the second album by the Aigars Grāvers-led RamaDance project (released by Platforma) could also be in the running. However, the latter really shouldn’t be in this category. Perhaps it’s time for LaMPA to create an “electronica” or “other” category.
The academic music category is worth watching if you’re a fan of Andrejs Jansons and the New York Latvian Concert Choir. Their recording of the musical Lolitas brīnumputns (which included participation by the Latvian National Opera) is one of five nominated in the category. The album is up against two recordings by the ever-popular Latvian Radio Choir, a recording of the final concert of the 23rd Latvian Song Festival (released by Baltic Records), and Naktstauriņi by Raimonds Pauls (released by MICREC).
Finally, among the special awards to watch is debut of the year. Nominees include Bardo Splash for Bordo, Cosmos for Cosmos, Dzintars Čīča for Nāc un dziedi, Nicol for Melns un balts and Z-Scars for Starp tevi un mani. Although all these new artists are deserving of support from consumers and the record business, Bardo Splash sounds to me to be the most refreshing.
A song from American-born rapper Delete’s album You’re Not Alone is nominated in this year’s Gada Balva contest.
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