Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Folklore? What's so special in it?

One folklore ensemble in Latvia, who are celebrating their 60 years anniversary the next year and has poor online presence, kindly asked me to make for them a simple blog, so they could announce their news and also put online the history of the ensemble online. For every work you do there is some music that can help you, and, of course, today my music was Latvian folklore, post folk and sounds of Latvian traditional music instruments. I simply can't avoid telling you about Latvian relationship with folklore, although take in account that I'm talking from a very subjective perspective.

First of all, acquaint yourself with traditional Latvian music instrument called 'kokle' in this nice piece of music by Latvian musician Laima Jansone (I'm a little bit in love with this music): 

I'm pretty confident to affirm that every Latvian has danced traditional dances and sung folk songs. It is everywhere here starting from the kindergarten. We are proud of our traditions and old folk songs. While there are many people "fighting" for preserving our traditions, especially because there aren't that many Latvians (ehmm... 2 million people?), our traditional culture and old traditions really are ALIVE comparing to other European countries! Latvians at all ages are passionately dancing traditional dances, voluntarily involving into folklore ensembles, learning traditions from elders and creating modern improvisations based on the elements of traditional music and choreography.  Of course, our post-folk and folk-rock is loved among Latvian youngsters. 

I have also heard that there isn't more superstitious nation in Europe than Latvians. Ok, we can argue about it, but, of course, we know that if you put your keys on the table or pour out salt there will be argument at that home, if a fork or knife falls on the floor you will have guests, if you put your hat on the table your head will hurt, if at the dinner table you sit on the corner that means 7 years you will not get married and... and the list of small things that are part of our daily lives goes on... Different beliefs coming from different parts of Latvia.

Once per 5 year huge song and dance festival (included in the UNESCO world heritage site) brings together people from the entire country in Riga to sing and dance together (read here) and Midsummer's night every year makes everyone to remember at least some of our traditions (read here).

What's so special about folklore in our daily lives? I don't think I can describe it so easily... The words of strength, solace and happiness - that's in Latvian folk songs. Philosophy, natural rules, the art of living - that's what we find there. That's true - you have to know something about it and look into symbols to be able to read that all... We have incantations and spells in our folk songs. Here you are allowed to laugh at me, but, for example, there is a folk song that you have to sing to scare away the rain - more people are singing it, more powerful these words are, and I've checked it. It worked.

The problem of folklore not living into everyone's life is pretty simple - we live in cities, we are getting away from the nature and the rhythm of life that is actual for rural people doesn't find its' place in cities. And here is what keeps the traditions alive, makes people interested in them and helps people to understand the treasure of folklore - musicians (and other artists & performers) who are able to make folklore attractive for modern people.

Check these:
If you are interested in folklore and traditional culture and it happens that you are coming to Riga, here is what you should visit (main places, but not the only):
  • Latvian Etnographic Open-Air Museum - one of the oldest and largest open-air museums in Europe with over 100 historical buildings, permanent and temporary exhibitions and festivities that honor Latvian traditional culture.
  • Sena Klēts - traditional costume center (it's like exhibition & shop) right in the heart of Riga (at the Old Town, near the Town hall square, Rātsalukums 1)
  • Folk-club "Ala" - great place for your evenings and nights (read here)

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