Dagamba combine Beethoven with Rammstein on new CD

The instrumental ensemble Dagamba have long been known for their compelling and unusual arrangements, particularly how they combine classical music with popular music. On their albums Recycled (2015) and Seasons (2016), they created musical fusions of many different artists, styles and eras to great effect.

Dagamba have continued this path on their latest release – 2017’s #LudwigVanRammstein, which, as the title makes clear, combines the music of composer Ludwig van Beethoven with German industrial rock group Rammstein.

At first glance, it would seem incongruous to combine the music of these two artists, the only similarity seeming to be that both the composer and group are from Germany. However, considering the often intense and stormy nature of the music of both, the links between Beethoven and Rammstein are closer than might initially seem. Some of Rammstein’s songs could even be considered symphonic in nature, with their broad musical and sonic palette.

Dagamba, who call themselves ‘classical music hooligans’, are made up of cellist Valters Pūce, pianist Dainis Tenis, cellist Antons Trocjuks, Hamidreza Rahbaralam on traditional Persian instruments and occasional vocals, and drummer Arturs Jermaks.

The album is not limited to just the works of Rammstein and Beethoven – for example, the opening number ‘Lullaby’, which mixes the Rammstein song ‘Mein Herz Brennt’ with a brief melodic reference to one of composer Raimonds Pauls’ most beloved melodies – ‘Circenīša Ziemassvētki’. The title of the song is perhaps slightly misleading, as it is not the tender bedtime song one might be expecting – after a tense yet quiet introduction, the full band comes crashing in to create a thunderous performance, and Pauls’ gentle melody becomes almost sinister in this context.

Perhaps one of Beethoven’s most somber and sad musical works is the 2nd movement of his 7th symphony, and this melody has been used to great effect when combined with the Rammstein song ‘Mutter’ in Dagamba’s ‘Crowd of Very Old Children’. The theme, played with appropriate melancholy on the cello is now combined with drums, and, as a result, is given an almost military-like feel, which is then transferred to the weighty chords of the piano.

The presence of the Iranian Rahbaralam in Dagamba has given their music even more musical and artistic flavors, adding Persian and Middle Eastern elements to the rock and classical themes. Rahbaralam also provides some occasional vocal work, for example on ‘1988. Ramstein’, a song that combines elements from the Rammstein song ‘Sonne’ and the music from one of Beethoven’s most famous piano works ‘Für Elise’ (Bagatelle No. 25). Rahbaralam’s vocal performance adds emotional heft to this tragic song, which, as its title might indicate, references the Ramstein air show disaster in 1988. Still, one does wish that there was more of Rahbaralam on this record, as it is often his contribution that makes a Dagamba song memorable.

Dagamba find inspiration in Latvian folk music as well, such as in the song ‘Polytical Fairytale’, which combines the Rammstein song ‘Amerika’ with the ‘Div’ dūjiņas gaisā skrēja’, a folk song about going off to war. The sorrowful folk song, as performed by cello and piano, provides the introduction for the weighty music to follow.

As their next project, Dagamba have selected to synthesize the works of Tchaikovsky with modern elements, and are planning a number of concerts in 2019, with a large scale concert at Arena Riga in April.

One does not need to be familiar with the songs of Rammstein (or even Beethoven’s compositions) to appreciate Dagamba’s musical mélange, as their ability to weave together melodies from different centuries makes for engrossing listening, even for those who might not be classical music or industrial music fans. It is also worth noting the significant contribution of producer (and percussionist) Rihards Zaļupe, who maintains a crisp clarity in all the songs. Helpfully, Dagamba have identified the Beethoven works and Rammstein songs used in each of the tracks on the album, so those who are familiar with the originals will appreciate these new arrangements even more. #LudwigVanRammstein is indeed a turbulent experience, and Dagamba’s vibrant performances are befitting of the intensity of both the works of Ludwig van Beethoven and Rammstein.

For more information, please visit the Dagamba website.

#LudwigVanRammstein

Dagamba

2017

Track listing:

    1. Lullaby (Mein Herz Brennt / R.Pauls Circenīša Ziemassvētki)
    2. Symphony – Du Riechst So Gut (5th Symphony – 1st mov.)
    3. Crowd of very old children (Mutter / 7th Symphony – 2nd mov.)
    4. You ain’t hurt, yo pathetic! (Ich Tu Dir Weh / Piano Sonata No.8 Sonata Pathetique – 2nd mov.)
    5. Polytical Fairytale (Amerika / Latvian folk tune Div’ dūjiņas gaisā skrēja)
    6. Black Moon (Ich Will / Piano Sonata No. 14 Moonlight Sonata – 1st mov.)
    7. 1988.Ramstein (Sonne / Bagatelle No. 25 Für Elise)
    8. Ludwig van Rammstein (Engel / Piano Sonata No. 14 Moonlight Sonata – 3rd mov.)

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.

PBLA sveiciens Valsts svētkos

Ir pienākusi diena, kuru visi gaidījām ar satraukumu un lepnumu; diena, kurai Latvija un latviešu organizācijas pasaulē gatavojās jau vairākus gadus – šodien pirms 100 gadiem tika pasludināta brīvā Latvijas valsts! Tieši pirms vesela gadu simta mūsu valsts tēvi Kārlis Ulmanis un Gustavs Zemgals vērsās pie Latvijas pilsoņiem ar uzsaukumu, kurā pasludināja Latviju par patstāvīgu, neatkarīgu un demokrātisku republiku. Šodien pirms 100 gadiem Nacionālajā teātrī un latviešu sirdīs piedzima Latvija, valsts, par kuru mūsu tēvu tēvi lēja asinis Brīvības cīņās, mūsu vecāki un vecvecāki loloja sirdīs cauri drūmajiem okupācijas gadiem un mūsu paaudze sargā un ceļ.

Brīva un pašu tautas vadīta valsts ir vērtība un privilēģija, par kādu daudzas tautas var tikai sapņot! Valsts ir pienākums un atbildība, kas nekad nebeidzas, rūpes, kas nekad neizsīkst, un sirdsdarbs, kas jādara diendienā ar mīlestību un lepnumu.

No neatkarīgās Latvijas 100 gadiem vairāk nekā puse pavadīta okupācijas važās. Šajos gados Pasaules Brīvo latviešu apvienība (PBLA) un Latvijas Brīvības fonds rūpējās par Latviju, stāvēja par Latviju un gādāja par Latviju tā, lai pasaulē un latviešu tautā neizdzistu alkas pēc brīvas valsts un tauta būtu gatava mosties jaunām brīvības cīņām – trešajai atmodai. Dažādas PBLA valdes dažādos gadu desmitos strādājušas Latvijas labā ar patriotismu un mīlestību sirdī, ar lepnumu par savu valsti! Mēs uzturējām dzīvu domu par neatkarības atjaunošanu un palīdzējām Latvijai brīvību atgūt.

Pirmajos neatkarības gados palīdzējām Latvijai attīstīties un augt. Jaunā gadsimta sākumā stiprinājām mūsu valsts drošību caur NATO un Eiropas Savienību. Šajā desmitgadē gādājam par Latvijas tēlu un nesam to pasaulē. PBLA stiprina Latviju, rūpējas par tās drošību un palīdz būvēt valsts labklājību.

Mūsu tēvzemei ieejot otrajā neatkarības gadsimtā, mēs turpināsim strādāt valsts labā – gādāsim par lat- visko izglītību un kultūru ārpus Latvijas, rūpēsimies par jauniešu patriotismu un Latvijas mīlestību kā dzimtenē, tā ārpus tās robežām. Mēs esam lepni par Latvijas sasniegumiem un priecājamies par tās jaunās paaudzes talantiem, uzņēmīgumu un radošumu.

Daudz laimes Tev, Latvija! Esi droša, skaista un lepna valsts pasaules saimē arī savā nākamajā simtgadē! Vēlam Tev saules mūžu, Latvija, un lai Dievs svētī un sargā latvju zemi, tās meitas un dēlus plašajā pasaulē!

PBLA valdes un Latvijas Brīvības fonda vārdā,

Kristīne Saulīte, PBLA priekšsēde

Skandinieki CD features wedding songs from the Sēlija region

The traditional Latvian folk ensemble Skandinieki has a long and rich history. Founded in 1976, for more than forty years the group has been playing and singing not just Latvian folk songs, but also Liv folk songs – the Stalts family, the core of Skandinieki for its entire existence, are of Liv descent. Today, Skandinieki is led by Julgī Stalte.

Their most recent recording is of wedding songs from the Selonia (Sēlija) region of Latvia (today, the eastern section of the Zemgale administrative district, around the city of Jēkabpils). Though the Selonian language may have died out, the songs have not, and, recognizing the cultural wealth from that area, Skandinieki released the album Kāzas sēļu zemēs in 2018. The songs on the album are arranged somewhat chronologically – from songs about the couples meeting, then the wedding itself, and then concluding with songs about the wedding night.

A lot of work was put into reproducing the Selonian dialect, and the group enlisted the help of linguist Maija Poiša to make the recordings as authentic as possible. There are some comments from Poiša in the CD booklet about this challenge. Reproducing Selonian was particularly difficult, as this comparatively rarely spoken dialect had, depending on which town you were in, different pronunciations for different words.

There is a touch of the mystical in the song ‘Àiz upeites’, a young girl’s song about her journey across a river – a symbolic travel that leaves her past on one side (her family remains crying on one side) and her future awaits on the other side. Accompanied by the kokle, the women of Skandinieki provide an enchanting performance of this song about a young girl coming of age. The men of Skandinieki follow that up with the lively ‘Ogri müni goíļi dziéd(i)’, a story of sailors travelling to Prussian lands to find brides.

An important part of any Latvian wedding is mičošana, or traditions and rituals performed late in the evening to celebrate the union of the pair. ‘Mi:čuošänas dziésma’ is about this ritual, and includes wisdom from the older, married women, and also mentions the symbolic change of the bride’s headwear – from the unmarried girl’s vainags (crown) to the married woman’s galvas rota (head ornament).

There are more mystical elements in the vigorous ‘Nätìšām(i) as ìegàju’, a prayer to the Latvian goddess Laima to bless the marriage and protect the newly married couple, and the album concludes with the quiet, single-voiced ‘Gulāt ìrbe, gulāt sluóka’, the song of the grandmother as she leads the newlyweds to their bed.

As with many releases from the Lauska record label, the CD booklet is full of information about the songs and the performers. Each song features notes for the melody, as well as a brief explanation of the song in Latvian and English. There are also Selonian folk beliefs, such as the belief from the town of Birzgale, where if the bride and groom have similar noses, they will be a good match for each other.

Besides being a well performed and enjoyable listen, Kāzas sēļu zemēs is also a valuable folklore document, as comparatively little from the Selonia region has been recorded or released. Though the region is small, it still has a great wealth of folklore and folk songs, and, on Kāzas sēļu zemēs, Skandinieki have provided authentic and engaging performances of these wedding songs.

For more information, please visit the Skandinieki Facebook page.

Kāzas sēļu zemēs

Skandinieki

Lauska, CD077, 2018

Track listing:

    1. Àiz upeites
    2. Ogri müni goíļi dziéd(i)
    3. So:rkonais duábùeliņč
    4. Ķìrveleíc
    5. Iétan mu:n goàjējam
    6. Ziéduošana
    7. Kùodeļa spreslìca
    8. Jaúnas mäítas
    9. Malni vērši, bòlti rogi
    10. Mi:čuošänas dziésma
    11. Nätìšām(i) as ìegàju
    12. Pùra dancs
    13. Gùoda dziésma
    14. Valberģu polka
    15. Sēlpils bukurags
    16. Àisskrējä vanädzìņč
    17. Treís mäítiņ’s doàrzā
    18. Gulāt ìrbe, gulāt sluóka

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.