Latvian Voices’ album “Sudrabs” reconfirms group’s versatility

The women’s a capella singing ensemble Latvian Voices has become one of Latvia’s best known musical exports – performing worldwide, and enrapturing audiences and listeners with their beautiful singing and soaring harmonies. The group, who will celebrate their 10th anniversary in December 2019, also recently organized their own vocal festival in Valmiera, Latvia. Their most recent album (their seventh) – Sudrabs (or ‘Silver’) was released in 2018, and the singers on the album are Laura Jēkabsone, Laura Leontjeva, Zane Stafecka, Beāte Locika, Marta Lortkipanidze, Dita Belicka and Elīna Ose.

According to the group, the title Sudrabs was chosen because ‘Silver is a very versatile material … silver is often associated with human emotional and spiritual maturity’, which is appropriate, considering the maturity displayed throughout the album.

Latvian folk songs continue to be an essential element of the ensemble’s repertoire, and the selections on Sudrabs reconfirm their innate ability to interpret and perform these songs, even in markedly different styles than the originals. There is the exuberant energy of ‘Kad es gāju tauteņos’ and ‘Es par bēdu nebēdāju’, and the playfulness of ‘Aiz upītes es uzaugu’, with its jazzy interlude in the middle. The group also offer their version of one of the most beautiful folk songs from Latgale, ‘Kur gaismeņa zyla ause’, a song about a man courting a young girl, but her family is reluctant for her to leave the homestead, but she insists she is ready to go. Though a lovely interpretation, the group has inserted unrelated verses into the song, which slightly distract from the story.

Though not a folk song, ‘Piekūns skrien debesīs’, originally performed by the group Jauns mēness, receives a similarly reverent interpretation, bringing forth the mystical and spiritual aspects of this song, creating a kind of hypnotic meditation.

The group also continue to display their abilities to compose new music as well – Jēkabsone proves to be an accomplished songwriter with songs like ‘Sudraba mēness’, ‘August Clouds’ (lyrics by Jānis Strazdiņš), and ‘In Time of Silver Rain’ (lyrics by American poet Langston Hughes), with the vocal performances providing a memorable musical interpretation of this poem of rebirth.

Though their arrangements and performance of well known pop songs like Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’ and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’ are impeccable, one does get a feeling that perhaps a capella versions of these once ubiquitous songs might not have been necessary. Still, that is balanced out with their achingly beautiful arrangement of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, which even enhances the original – no mean feat, considering how big a hit the song was for the band. The melancholy, though hopeful song, reaches an emotional climax with the voices reproducing the fifths of the guitar solo in the original, and, with just their voices, create a moving version of this cathartic song.

Combining their mastery of singing with both popular songs and Latvian folk songs, Sudrabs is a remarkable achievement. With their soaring voices, engrossing arrangements, and singular talent, the women of Latvian Voices confidently show their ability and skill over a variety of styles and genres, making for a transcendent and emotionally rich listen.

For further information, please visit the Latvian Voices website.


Latvian Voices


Track listing

  1. MLK
  2. Keidas
  3. Kad es guoju tauteņos
  4. Es par bēdu nebēdāju
  5. Aiz upītes es uzaugu
  6. Kur gaismeņa zyla ause
  7. Piekūns skrien debesīs
  8. Sudraba mēness
  9. August Clouds
  10. Kiss from a Rose
  11. In Time of Silver Rain
  12. True Colors
  13. Life is a Game
  14. Fix You

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . 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.

“Latvians Abroad” Museum – Collection, Outreach, Accreditation

The Museum “Latvians Abroad” (“Latvieši pasaulē” or LaPa, for short) is the only institution in the world that is entirely devoted to compiling and exhibiting the activities of Latvians around the globe. Last year the Museum Board set the goal of gaining state accreditation from the Latvian Ministry of Culture, because accreditation will add the Museum’s collection to Latvian cultural heritage, thus ensuring its long-term viability and availability, and open up more government support.

We are happy to report that during 2019  the Museum  has moved significantly closer to that goal. Thanks to donations from members of the diaspora and in Latvia as well as some support from the Latvian government, the Museum Board was able to hire a full-time collections manager. She has started a systematic, detailed and extensive description of the more than 8000 units in the collection, according to the rules for accredited Latvian museums. But the task is huge, and we have realized that in order to bring the collection in compliance with all the elaborate rules for accreditation, we will need to hire another collections staff member in 2020.

The work with accreditation is only one aspect of the activities of the “Latvians Abroad” Museum last year. The major new undertaking for the year has been the Exhibit and Escape room Refugee Paths about the experiences of refugees as they fled Latvia during the waning days of World War II. It is open to all interested persons in groups of up to 7 and has become one of the most popular programs for secondary school field trips in Latvia. Come visit us! You can set up a date by calling +371 2657 2789 or writing to

The three exhibits that Museum staff and associated experts created for Latvia’s centennial last year have continued to be available to the public in various venues. The hugely popular Story Quilt can now be viewed online. It was also exhibited at Sēļu Mansion in Vidzeme during the summer.  The multimedia exhibit I, too, am a Latvian, was exhibited in Liepāja and Vidzeme University in Valmiera. The travelling exhibit Song Festivals Outside Latvia  was exhibited in the Song Festivals in Ireland and Canada, as well as at six venues in Latvia. Our Museum’s materials form a part of and can still be viewed at the joint centenary exhibit at the Latvian National History Museum.  In addition, some materials are also deposited to other memory institutions in Latvia and abroad and can be viewed in their exhibits.

Every month we show an Object of the Month with its story and the wider context in the Latvian National Library atrium.

To reach out in a more personal way to people interested in diaspora history and questions, we held four Fall LaPa Outreach and Discussion Evenings on topics of interest to the Museum and the diaspora.

During field work in Norway we collected new, valuable materials for the Museum, including objects and stories from recent emigrants from Latvia. We receive new and valuable historic items every day that attest to the activities of Latvians abroad during various periods in history. Last year the Museum accepted 1682 new items, for a total of more than 8000.

All this has been accomplished with very modest financing and a small staff.

For the next year the museum’s goals are:

  • to finish processing the collection for accreditation,
  • to continue our outreach and work with schools; and
  • to build a major exhibition about emigre anti-Soviet activities, Nyet, Nyet Soviet, to be shown at the Railroad Museum in the summer of 2020.

Even though the Museum has made great strides in bringing the collection in compliance with prescribed norms and fulfilling the other obligations for accreditation, it has become obvious to us that the job is too huge for one person alone. Therefore, the Museum is having a fundraising campaign to raise $20,000 in order to hire another collections staff member in 2020. We are happy that a supporter has offered to donate $5000, but only if the Museum raises another $15,000 by Dec. 31, 2019.

Donations to the Museum can be made in several ways:

From Latvia and elsewhere:  Electronic funds transfer to the museum’s bank account (please indicate the name, address and email of the donor):
“Latvieši pasaulē – muzejs un pētniecības centrs”
Swedbank account nr. LV15HABA0551018556914,
Registration nr. 40008119789

Via credit card, follow instructions on the Museum’s webpage.

US residents can receive a tax break for their donations. Write checks out to:

Latvian Diaspora Museum Fund, c/o M. Voldins, 131 Langdon St, Newton, MA 02458, USA

Canadian residents can receive a tax break for donations through the Daugavas Vanagi Kanāda, noting that the donation is meant for “LaPa Muzejs”. Cheques can be made out to the “Latvian Relief Society of Canada – Daugavas Vanagi”.

Postal address:  Ms. Gunta Reynolds, Daugavas Vanagi Kanādā, 4 Credit Union Drive, Toronto, ON M4A 2N8  

Percussion ensemble Kanisaifa melds Latvian folk songs and world music elements

Latvian percussionist Nils Īle has, for decades, been working with and investigating world drumming techniques and sounds. He has traveled all over world, from Africa to Asia and throughout Europe, gathering knowledge and musical experience. He also has founded a drumming studio, which is, according to his website, a “place where both seasoned musicians and the musically curious can come to learn about rhythmic composition”.

That creative atmosphere at Īle’s studio led to the foundation of the ensemble Afroambient in 2001, considered to be the first such ethno-percussion ensemble in Latvia. Over time, the ensemble evolved, and adopted a new name – Kanisaifa – a name that Īle says came to him in a dream. The group released their first album – Atdzīvinot vēju (Or ‘Reviving the Wind’) in 2018. The album mixes percussion together with Latvian folk songs and world music elements.

Much of the album has an atmospheric and dreamy quality to it, such as in the introductory track, appropriately called ‘Sākums’ (or ‘Beginning’), an instrumental work that combines percussion, stringed instruments, sound effects and a wordless vocalization. Using various instruments and sounds, over the course of the track’s eleven minutes, the ensemble creates a multi-layered musical painting.

The mystical ‘Melni vērši’ is based on a Latvian folk song, and Kanisaifa’s performance of this song is particularly memorable, as their percussion-heavy interpretation brings out the otherworldly elements of this song about what appear to be black bulls swimming in the water, but are actually horses with silver bridles.

There are quite a few Middle Eastern elements throughout the album, such as on the hypnotic ‘Vilku deja’ and the passionate ‘Ja dust’. Both songs feature guest musician and vocalist Hamidreza Rahbaralam from Iran, who some will know from his work with the instrumental ensemble Dagamba. Rahbaralam’s vocals and percussion add an additional dimension to these songs, enhancing the world music elements even further.

The record concludes with the – as the group call it – ‘intuitive improvisation’ ‘Atdzīvinot vēju’. As it is an improvisation, the work has a formless, meandering quality to it, but, at almost eighteen minutes in length, some listeners may find it a bit hard to follow. Particularly the last five minutes, which are almost entirely just the sounds of a vargan (or Jew’s harp), a single pitched instrument. Though this gives this performance an ethereal quality, it goes on a bit longer than might be necessary.

Nils Īle and the members of Kanisaifa have brought together not just their musical talents, but a wide variety of percussive instruments (more than a dozen different percussive instruments are listed in the credits) to create a broad sonic palette that is woven throughout Atdzīvinot vēju. Though there is an abundance of percussion, the performances are never noisy or overpowering – quite the opposite, using these drums and other instruments, the group has put together a meditative, melodious and immersive record.

For further information, please visit the Kanisaifa website and the Nils Īle Studio website.

Atdzīvinot vēju


NABA Music / Melo Records, 2018

Track listing

  1. Sākums
  2. Melni vērši
  3. Vilku deja
  4. Kalnos jau snieg
  5. Piesaukšana
  6. Sabāra
  7. Senegāla
  8. Princes ar pērtiķi
  9. Ja dust
  10. Atdzīvinot vēju

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . 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.