The poetry of Elsbergs gets the Dimiters treatment

Cik smalkā diegā viss karājās

Before Latvia regained independence, and before the rise of the Internet, information about things going on in Latvia was tough to get. This was especially so for those interested in Latvian music. In fact, unless you had relatives or friends living in Latvia, you wouldn’t know anything about Latvian music, except for the rare occasion when a Latvian musician or group was allowed to venture outside of Latvia.

Luckily for me, my family had friends who were still living in Latvia and who were as devout music listeners as I was, even though I was still in my early teen years then. They would send us records and cassette recordings of all the latest music, and this was my only source of information about the Latvian music world. I would listen to each tape and record numerous times until they wore out.

One of the tapes our friends sent us contained songs by Kaspars Dimiters. This cassette recording bore the brunt of my abuse, as I would listen to this one more than any other. The first time my family and I went to Latvia, I promptly went to the record store and found the album Mans kumoss pilsētas baložiem, which contained many of the songs I had loved on the cassette. This has become one of my favorite recordings by any artist and is an album I listen to frequently to this day.

As it turned out, Dimiters had written many other songs that I had liked, but I never had known who performed them. They included favorites such as “Princesīte” (from the 1981 Mikrofons record) and “Mana neveiksminiece” (from a 1982 Mikrofons “bonus” 7-inch record).

Dimiters was an important songwriter during the Soviet occupation, a time when the government often threatened him and prevented his songs from being played on the radio or television. However, as times changed so did Dimiters’ songwriting style. Many of his more recent work has slanted toward political themes and societal commentary. All in all, Dimiters has released about 10 albums.

Last year saw the release of the album Cik smalkā diegā viss karājās. Dimiters is a man of many talents. Not only does he sing, but he also plays the guitar and all the other instruments on the record, and even did all the recording and production work.

Normally, Dimiters writes both the lyrics and music to his songs, but this time he chose to add music to the poetry of Klāvs Elsbergs. All the lyrics on this record were taken from the Elsbergs collection Bēdas uz nebēdu. Elsbergs, son of famous Latvian writer Vizma Belševica, died under mysterious circumstances in 1987.

Elsbergs’ poetry contains a wide range of emotions and feelings that fit perfectly with Dimiters’ sincere and earnest delivery. Because the words are Elsbergs’, this album comes across differently than the rest of Dimiters’ recordings. Dimiters’ lyrics can be very biting and critical; in fact, some of his songs make certain listeners downright uncomfortable.

The album is on the mellow side. Many of the 19 tracks feature just guitar and vocals. However, that does not mean the record is dull, as the songs have varied tempos.

The opening track, and one of my favorites on the album, is the subdued “Viens.”

Another favorite on the record is the very sad song “Asaru krelles.” The lyrics describe a girl who makes a necklace of tears. Dimiters’ voice is ideally suited to tell the tale of this lonely girl who wonders whether someone will ever hold her.

“Es neesmu vientuļā” is a song about the dilemma of a songwriter: if you don’t feel lonely, how do you write songs for the lonely? Dimiters allows the words of Elsbergs to speak for themselves in this song, while providing a simple but effective guitar background.

Fans of the 1980s rock group Pērkons will recognize two of the songs here: “Neatvadīsimies” and “Pasniegtās rokas.” Pērkons’ interpretation of these two songs appeared on their 1987 album Labu vakar (“Pasniegtās rokas” was called “Lampas un zvaigznes” on that record). Although the lyrics are the same, it is quite a treat to hear the more stripped-down treatment of Dimiters, compared to the full band approach of Pērkons.

Many of the songs are on the slower side, but “Āmurzivs” is a more up-tempo offering from the album. The lyrics tell the tale of a boy who was thrown overboard from a ship and is struggling against the tide, trying to stay alive while watching the boat he was on get farther and farther away.

Cik smalkā diegā viss karājās is one of my favorite records of last year, from one of my favorite artists. Though most of the songs are laid back and mellow, it still strikes a chord in a listener, and Elsbergs’ lyrics are compelling listening. (Thankfully the lyrics are included, which helps the listener develop a better appreciation for his words). Dimiters’ songs, whether the lyrics were written by himself or by others, are about the importance of the words and text of the song—about getting certain thoughts across to the listener.

Hopefully this release will be a success, which will lead to Dimiters’ earlier works being re-released. Thankfully these days it is much easier to obtain music from Latvia, so perhaps this album will help introduce the rest of the world to one of Latvia’s most singular songwriters.


Cik smalkā diegā viss karājās

Kaspars Dimiters

Gailītis-G,  2001

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.

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