Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Post-folk" band Ilgi - tracks featuring (or at least briefly showing) Gatis Gaujenieks on the giga - a Latvian folk instrument derived from the Swedish psalmodikon

PLEASE NOTE -- On March 12, 2013, I also posted several links to Hogfiddle on the Hedgehogs Baltic Folk Ensemble (also known as Ezisi, in Latvian, or Siilikesed, in Estonian) of Indianapolis (permalink, which features another bowed folk zither, or giga, directly related to the Swedish psalmodikon. That gives us two bands who apparently play secular folk music on it, and it's always been on my "B List" to find out more about these bands -- "Hedgehogs" in the US and the folk-rock group "Igli" in Latvia -- but I've never gotten around to it.

The giga, which appears to be a folk adaptation of the psalmodikon in Swedish-speaking parts of Estonia and Latvia, is playing a small part in the burgeoning traditional and "post-folk" music scene in the Baltic nations since independence from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. Link here to primer on folk music in the Baltics, with several embedded videos from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, at ...

If you look carefully at the YouTube video of the Latvian "post-folk" band Ilgi embedded below, you'll see Gatis Gaujenieks on the right with his giga. The video will show him playing it from time to time in the midst of all the music video pyrotechnics.

Ilgi - Saule brida miglajos.

CD Baby biography at has a thumbnail that shows Gaujenieks with his giga at lower right. Also this:

In 1981 Ilga Reizniece, a classically trained violinist, formed the folk group ILGI (Latvian for friendly spirits). She soon was joined by Maris Muktupavels on kokle, bagpipes and accordion. They traveled the country learning folk songs and traditions from their elders at a time when the Latvian folklore movement was more of a political statement than a musical trend. In contrast with the Soviet sanctioned sugar-coated presentations of Latvian "culture", true Latvian culture was preserved in folk songs and dances by folk groups such as ILGI. The latter groups became de facto centers of national and cultural studies.

As Reizniece recalls, "from the very beginning we were different from the authentic music ensembles in the traditional sense. We have always been interested in music as art, not just the folklore aspect of it. There always has been a dual purpose of the group: we had to fulfill our mission in preserving the Latvian heritage, return forgotten lore to the nation, but at the same time we really enjoyed just playing the music. I am a professional musician after all."

After Latvian independence was restored in 1991 ILGI began to travel abroad, and some of its music shifted from minor to major keys.

Another shift occurred in the late 1990's. Muktupavels and Reizniece had been playing in ILGI as well as in the rock band, Jauns Meness. Gatis Gaujenieks, a native New Yorker of Latvian descent, moved to Latvia and joined ILGI in 1997 as a musician, sound artist and producer. ILGI's meditative and somewhat traditional approach gave way to fuller instrumentation and bolder arrangements without undermining its foundation of Latvian folklore. ...

Photo IĻĢI: Gatis Gaujenieks 1301. Playing the giga, a fretted low note instrument, also known as a trough-fiddle or -violin.

CD Baby has this blurb on Tur saulite perties gaja, a 2012 album that won a best CD prize in Latvia ...

llgi's mature roots in Latvian folk music and the skilled musicianship of its members are apparent in profound and bold interpretations, album after album. Ilgi takes kokles, violin, a cello-like giga, acoustic and bass guitars, percussion, and an adopted kalimba on a tranquil journey in Tur Saulite Perties Gaja, released in 2011 as Ilgi celebrated its 30th anniversary.

The album's central theme is the Latvian pirts, a place for cleansing the body and soul. "Spirits are tossed" by ladling water onto rocks heated by a wood fire, creating a steam bath in the typically small wooden structure. To "perties" (gently flog) with a pirts slota (bundle of twigs) is invigorating. Whether in a private pirts in the countryside or under the direction of a modern day pirts keeper, the tradition is alive in Latvia. Nevertheless, it lacked music - until now.

In "Pirts Kurinasana" (Lighting the Fire), Ilga Reizniece sings of a pirts near a golden oak by a silver stream, "where the Sun went perties" (the album title). Celojums (Journey) is the story of a pirts mouse. Cels (The Road) is a gentle interplay of strings and kalimba. In Persana (Flogging) Reizniece names health promoting flora used in pirts slotas. Lidosana (Flying) showcases Egons Kronbergs' guitar and Maris Muktupavels' kokle and accordion. Gara Pupa (The Beanstalk) is the classic story of a beanstalk that grows up to the sky, but the music suggests the wonderfully languid feeling resulting from a trip to the pirts. It features a duet by Reizniece on violin and Muktupavels on kokle, playing as one after collaborating for three decades. Finally, Paldies (A Song of Thanks) is offered to everyone who makes the pirts possible, from its builder to the water carrier. Throughout, layers of depth are created by Gatis Gaujenieks on giga and bass guitar, and Martins Linde on percussion.

No comments: