¡Baila, Baila Latvia!

Latviešu danči
Latvian Folk Music Collection


01. Makaidū  
02. Cūkas driķos     
03. Eilanders
04. Enģelits  
05. Mugurdancis
06. Kurzemes mugurdancis 
07. Dzīsme
08. Skroders 
09. Diždancis  
10. Tūdaliņ tagadiņ 
11. Šaine
12. Žīga 
13. Padespaņs   
14. Lielā Jūle 
15. Garais dancis




Latvian music for happy feet

by Daina Bolšteins

It makes me feel happy.” A British executive of a prestigious international company said this when he heard the new Latvian Folk Music Collection’s Latviešu danči (Latvian Dances) playing as telephone on-hold music at his company. Overall, that is quite an accurate assessment of this disc.

To put it another way, the music on this album is, in two words, quintessentially Latvian. As ethnomusicologist Valdis Muktupāvels writes in the liner notes (in both Latvian and English, although a few of the English phrases are a bit awkward), Latvians love to dance. This love is truly evident in the joyous music on this disc.

The music was performed by a number of people, including Māris Muktupāvels (producer of this album) and Ilga Reizniece, both of whom are well known and highly respected in Latvian folk music circles. Other notable performers include Gints Sola, guitarist for the pop-rock group Jauns Mēness, and Mikus Čavarts, like Reizniece and Māris Muktupāvels a member of the folklore ensemble Iļģi. One surprise addition is Ilmārs Mežs and his family. Mežs, known in part for his research into Latvian demographics, also is lead singer for the folklore ensemble Eilenders.

Included in the liner notes are instructions (in Latvian only), written by Sniedze Grīnberga, for dancing the dances. It’s a wonderful idea, but does not work all that well. The directions particularly would not work well for two groups of people (other than those who do not read Latvian): those who are highly visually oriented and those who have no Latvian dance knowledge or experience. These people might be able to figure out only the simplest dances. I am quite visually oriented when it comes to dancing, never having been a big fan of written dance instructions with no illustrations because I have a very difficult time picturing the steps and formations. As for the dances on this disc, I was able to follow along the instructions mostly only to the dances that I have danced before.

However, on a purely musical level, this is absolutely fantastic music. The second track, “Cūkas driķos” is one of the more rousing versions I’ve heard and I had an almost irrepressible urge to begin dancing down the hallways of my office when I heard it. The tracks with vocals make you want to sing along at the top of your voice. The 15 dances chosen for inclusion on this disc offer a nice variety: some are fast, others are slower, some have vocals, others are instrumental. Most Latvians will be familiar with at least a couple of dances, such as “Tūdaliņ, tagadiņ” and “Mugurdancis,” which are classics that children learn at very young ages. Yet there also are tracks that will be new to many listeners.

Another enjoyable aspect of this disc is that dancers were a part of the recording. Not only does the listener hear the wonderful music, but also the actual dancing. In other words, it is very much a live recording. For those of us living outside of Latvia, at times this disc is as close as many of us will come to an authentic evening of Latvian dancing, singing and merrymaking.

This disc will make Latvians feel Latvian to the depths of their souls (and to tips of their toes) and it will give non-Latvians a greater appreciation of Latvian culture. Naturally, this is the somewhat biased opinion of a former dancer who is crazy about both Latvian dance and music, but if a half dozen co-workers from around the world at my office enjoyed Latviešu danči, I am certain all readers will as well.



Go, Little Goat...

Veronika Povilionienė, Petras Vyšniauskas 
Išlėk, Sakale [Fly, Falcon, Fly]


01. Islek, sakale... (Fly, Falcon...) [06:14]
02. Bliuzas (Blues) [03:56]
03. Vai tu dziemed... (Oh, You Wormwood...) [02:45]
04. Sutartine [04:24]
05. Eik, ozeli (Go, Little Goat...) [05:22]
06. Lek gervele (A Crane Is Flying...) [03:14]
07. Kad jau saulute (Cause The Sun...) [04:44]
08. Sutems tamsi (Dark Night Is Coming...) [06:38]
09. Sutartine (Lament) [03:50]
10. Rauda [01:43]
11. Ein motuse (Mother Is Going...) [03:07]

Recorded in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1992.

Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Petras Vyšniauskas
Vocals – Veronika Povilionienė

 Backing Vocals – Juozas Bakutis, Valdas Matulis, Vilmantė Liubinienė, Virgilijus Liubinas, Virginijus Meškinis, Vita Matulienė, Zina Stirneckaitė




This duo of first class musicians has been well-known for over a decade. Veronika Povilionienė is the most famous Lithuanian folk singer with a career spanning more than 40 years. She is always creatively challenging herself by engaging in various projects with jazz, pop, and rock musicians. Petras Vyšniauskas has made his mark as a top saxophonist, well-known for his masterful jazz and contemporary music interpretations. Their innovative, freely breathing songs are a beautiful mix of folk music sensibility and modern classical virtuosity.

Ugnius Liogė

Veronika Povilionienė, the most famous performer of Lithuanian folk songs, has become a symbol of national culture. Originally from Dzūkija, the singer has inherited the tradition from the old singers of this region. Veronika Povilionienė's voice is strong and evocative; it reveals, with expression, the extraordinary beauty of the Dzūkian monodic songs, their modes and melodic turns. Apart from abundant solo performances and recordings, the singer frequently gives concerts with the folk ensemble Blezdinga and the ensemble of Indian classical music Lyla. The singer is also famous for her collaborations with jazz musicians and contemporary classical composers (saxophonist Petras Vyšniauskas, composers Vidmantas Bartulis and Bronius Kutavičius), other renowned artists, poets and film directors. One of her most notable recent projects is the program of historic and war songs Kada sūneliai sugrįš (When Our Sons Come Back), arranged by the composer Giedrius Svilainis and recorded with the Lithuanian Armed Forces’ Honour Guard Band.
"Soprano saxophonist Petras Vysniauskas, a Lithuanian, is I believe one of the most profoundly original musicians concentrating on that instrument -- his jagged phrases expanded on determinedly original intervals and his sound is powerful -- stronger and more pointed than Sam River's has become, for instance, more densely concentrated than the late Steve Lacy's, if not polyphonic in the manner of Evan Parker." - Howard Mandel, NYC, USA, 2007

"... Petras Vysniauskas is one of the best soprano saxists we've heard in many years ... " - Bruce Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, NYC, 2006

"Something of the rugged beauty of the Lithuanian countryside and the passion of many of his fellow countrymen has been breathed into his music. For me Petras Vysniauskas' music remains unforgettable because of his clear, individual concept. The use of themes from traditional folk music is one facet of this saxophonist, who reflects both the modern development in jazz and the sound idioms of the new and latest improvised and composed music. However, as he himself says, his feeling for folk music is part of his musical identity. And he adds: "In Lithuanian folk songs I hear echoes of John Coltrane; I try to combine this with the free form of expression offered by modern jazz". (Bert Noglik/1990)