Music with serious bite

  • 2004-05-27
  • By Elizabeth Celms
RIGA - "Ka maigi dzeloss rozu krums" (As a tenderly biting rose bush) is truly music at its best. The classical composition is beautifully orchestrated and the purity of the vocals is enough to pinch the Three Tenors with envy.

And like a rose bush, this album has an aroma of pleasantness, an essence of passion and a few thorns to scratch at the spirit.
Vocalists Dita Kalnina, from Latvia's National Opera and Zigfrids Muktupavels (Igo), a well-known pop musician, are possibly two of the finest musical figures that Latvia has recently produced. And with this album, they show just why.
A mixture of originally composed music and specially written patriotic and cultural Latvian songs, the essence of "Ka maigi dzeloss rozu krums" is inspired by all four regions of the country. The much-admired national poet Normands Belskis is the author of the album's moving lyrics and Janis Lusens is the composer. Combining Belskis' poetry with the talents of Riga's Chamber Music Orchestra and Latvia's Radio Choir, the final product far surpasses previous record label attempts to capture Latvia's spirit in music.
The album features four songs named after Latvia's geographical regions - Latgale, Zemgale, Vidzeme and Kurzeme as well as romantic and patriotic compositions. Kalnina's voice in the opening song, "Laujies" (Let me), has enough power to entrance even the most braindead Slayer fan in its extraordinary beauty.
At times biblical, the lyrics of the song "Zemgale" illustrate the emotional connection the Latvian people have to their land. "And I fell with my cheek against the earth, and kissed it like bread."
The song about Vidzeme refers to the heart of Latvia as "our loving, little sister," in the typical Latvian tradition of imbuing nature with a human spirit and character. "Dance, dear little sister, all the way to your own little sea." But it's the song that the album is titled after that perhaps best captures the patriotic essence of the album. "I am not one in this life, my soul is not alone, like a tender biting rose bush, the homeland takes my soul."
However, one doesn't need to understand the lyrics to feel their strength. In fact, the song that speaks the loudest is the one with no words. The instrumental "The Gray Song" is truly penetrating, easing the mind and warming the heart. It's a pensive song that creates a feeling recognizable only after listening to Bach or Schubert. My apologies to Kalnina and Muktupavels, but its gray voice is my favorite.