Latvia’s “Atmodas laiks” (Reawakening) of the late 1980s at times also has been called the “Dziesmotā revolūcija” (Singing Revolution), mainly because much of what needed to be said (or hadn’t been said in a long time) was expressed in songs. Many songs of the period were infused with not just patriotism, but also a need to express the pain and sadness that the Latvian people had been subjected to for the previous half century.
Songs like “Dzimtā valoda,” “Sena kalpu dziesma” and “…pie laika” awakened or reawakened thoughts and feelings that had long been dormant. One song in particular that became a nucleus of this wave of reawakening was “Manai tautai,” sung by Ieva Akuratere. When she performed the song at the festival Liepājas dzintars in 1988, the entire audience rose to its feet and, in tears, sang along—a particularly noteworthy event as the hall was full of Soviet militia men.
Akuratere recorded the song for her solo album Spogulis, which was originally released on vinyl in 1988. MICREC re-released the album, with bonus tracks, on compact disc in 2005 as part of its Latviešu populārās mūzikas klasika series.
Akuratere is a classically trained singer, having studied at the Latvian State Conservatory (now the Latvian Academy of Music). She has also been an actress, spending four years working at the Liepāja Theater, and later at the Operetta Theater. In 1981, she became a vocalist for the rock group Pērkons, with which she still performs today. Her achievements have also been noted by the Latvian government, which gave her the Order of the Three Stars award in 1999.
The CD collects the songs from her 1988 album and some additional songs recorded during that time period. The main performer on these songs is Akuratere, who not only sings but plays guitar on all tracks. In fact, on many songs it is just Akuratere performing, quite different than the full rock instrumentation of Pērkons. Also, Akuratere performs the music of many different composers (unlike Pērkons, where all music was composed by Juris Kulakovs.)
Additional musicians on the CD include Valdis Muktupāvels (guitar, kokle, recorder, and piano), Pērkons members Kulakovs (keyboards) and Leons Sejāns (guitar and stabule). Singer Niks Matvejevs also provides vocals on one song, “Šai svētā naktī.”
Since many tracks are just guitar and vocals, the record does have a folksy feel to it, but it has the effect of focusing all attention on Akuratere’s voice, which gives the songs an added poignancy and emotion.
One of the highlights is “Manai tautai” (with music by Latvian-American Brigita Ritmane and text by her father, Andris Ritmanis), in which Akuratere sings the famous line “Palīdzi Dievs, visai Latviešu tautai” (God help all Latvians), exhorting God to bring together all the Latvians back to the shores of the Daugava. Certainly this is a text that touched the hearts of Latvians all over the world, especially in the late 1980s.
It turns out Akuratere is a songwriter herself, as she provides the music and lyrics for a few songs on the album, including the songs “Spogulis,” “Veltijums” and “Ceļojums.” Other composers the record are Imants Kalniņš (“Lūgšana” and “Betas dziesma”), Aivars Hermanis (“Mēnessnakts”), Jānis Lūsēns (”Šai svētā naktī”) and Uldis Stabulnieks (Akuratere performs a version of his “Varbūt,” a song of hope that someday someone will notice and be aware of the Baltic states).
Though the album does not come with a booklet or with lyrics, there are two essays about Akuratere, one by the late poet Māris Melgalvs written in 1988, another by music journalist Daiga Mazvērsīte written in 2005.
In a rather dramatic departure from the music of Pērkons, Akuratere took guitar in hand and recorded an album full of beautiful and poignant songs. With barest accompaniment, she made a record that, besides being historically significant, is a beautiful collection of songs. Once again MICREC must be thanked for its efforts in re-releasing these many treasures, as Spogulis is a highly enjoyable and highly recommended CD.
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