After a rowdy concert in 1983, the popular Latvian rock group Pērkons was banned by Soviet authorities, meaning the band could not perform or release recordings. A potential road to “rehabilitation” became visible in 1984, when noted Latvian composer Imants Kalniņš met with the group. Pērkons keyboardist and lead composer Juris Kulakovs had worked with Kalniņš before in the group Menuets, so the two had years of history together. Pērkons asked the composer if perhaps there was any music of his that they could record and perform, and Kalniņš went as far as to suggest working together to compose something completely new.
Kalniņš had in mind composing a rock oratorio based upon the Māris Čaklais text, “Kā jūra, kā zeme, kā debess.” The various parts of the text were divided up among composers Kalniņš, Kulakovs, and Pērkons bass guitarist Juris Sējāns. Even though Kalniņš was a bit of an antiestablishment guy himself, he still was a member of the Latvian Composers’ Union, and helped get the composition approved, as well as approval for the group to perform the work.
At the Liepājas dzintars festival in 1984, the group—Kulakovs, Sējāns, Raimonds Bartaševičs (vocals), Leons Sējāns (guitar), Dainis Strazdiņš (drums), Ieva Akurātere (vocals) and Nauris Puntulis (vocals)—took the stage again to perform the work. Having worked with respected composer Kalniņš allowed the group to perform publicly again. However, a short time after, the group was banned for a second time, but that is another story.
Kā jūra, kā zeme, kā debess was released on cassette in 1994, but for a long time now had been out of print. Earlier this year it was released for the first time on compact disc, after being re-mastered over the last two years by Kulakovs himself, along with three instrumental bonus tracks recorded by Kulakovs and Justīne Kulakova.
To be honest, I prefer Kulakovs’ later compositional work like “Sarkanais vilciens” and “Vēstule no bruģa” to this work. Perhaps it is because Kā jūra… has three different composers, and, to my ears, sounds a bit disjointed. There are certainly memorable moments, such as opener “Līgo” (music by Juris Sējāns) and “Vīru dziesma” (music by Juris Kulakovs), and the performances by the band are, as always, excellent. But there isn’t that much that holds my attention here. I’ve always been a big fan of Pērkons but this CD probably won’t find its way to my player as often as the band’s other recordings do. The three instrumental bonus tracks “Romance,” “Triumfa arka” and “Svētku uvertīra” are pleasing enough works, but don’t really fit in with the rock oratorio itself. In any case, I still hope this CD is successful so that Kulakov’ other compositional works also find their way to CD some day. And, of course, the historical significance of this work is undeniable—this work returned Pērkons to the stage and helped “rehabilitate” the band’s image.
The booklet has all the lyrics, as well as a short excerpt from the recently published book about Pērkons, No zemes un debesīm Pērkons by Māris Ruks. The CD was released by the same publishing company, Antava, that released the booka.
Though perhaps the almost 25 years since this work was first composed and performed may have diminished its major impact, it is still very historically significant and one of the most important compositions in the Latvian rock genre of the 1980s. Though not my favorite of Pērkons’ work, if you are a fan of the “art rock” genre (for example, Emerson, Lake and Palmer) you may very well enjoy this.
Kā jūra, kā zeme, kā debess
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