Music in Latvia
27 February, 2014
Latvia has a very special relationship with singing and music, and the dainas all reflect Latvian life, with songs dedicated to farming, mythology and the stages of life, such as birth and death. The country has had a difficult past and was occupied by the Soviet Union and the Germans and the people found that folk songs were a way to prove that Latvians are an indivisible nation and can stick together!
It has been said that Latvian dainas (traditional folk songs) are more than just tradition: they’re the very embodiment of Latvia’s cultural heritage, and form the very core of Latvian identity. That’s a very big claim to make, but with folk songs dating back a thousand years, the daina is not just a song, but a spoken history of this Baltic state, explaining its culture and worldview.
More than 1.2 million written songs have been identified and over 30,000 melodies are still known. The daina is actually a poem that is sung to a tune and Latvia deserves its title as “nation of poets” as all Latvians used to compose songs and verses and even now they all know some dainas! They often sing in folklore ensembles and perform at the Baltica folklore festival which takes place every three years as well as at the smaller cultural events that occur throughout the year. With about 150 groups, this is an art form that is still going strong!
You can guarantee that at any cultural event in Riga there will be a folklore group there to perform, and as Riga is the European Capital of Culture for 2014, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to hear some of these wonderful dainas!
This year, Riga is also hosting the World Choir Games, where choirs from around the globe compete. Latvia is a country of music and song and it shows!
Jade Mitchell-Ross is an English student, currently on an internship while studying Russian at Liden & Denz