Other Local videos

Preparation for the National Song and Dance festival

The Nationwide Latvian Song and Dance Celebration is one of the largest choral events in the world and the festival takes place in Riga, Latvia.  It is a celebration of Latvian folklore heritage with the underlying goal – to unite the nation and strengthen national identity. The Celebration, held every 5 years, brings together tens of thousands of participants from all over Latvia and worldwide. This global gathering of Latvians and unique cultural expression of the Baltics is included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Every 5 years there is the overall festival for amateur groups and collectives expressing themselves in the culture field (choirs, dance groups, folklore bands, craftmakers etc.), and every 4 years there is the National Youth Song and Dance festival where mostly school choirs and dance groups from all over Latvia participate.

The preparation process is long and is ingrained in the everyday, weekly repetitions of the choirs, dance groups and other traditional collectives. In this video you can see one of the dance groups, more specifically from the Baloži Culture house, performing in their own local culture house during a concert. The repetitions take place all year long, however most collectives tend to take a break in the summer. In the spring before each National Song and Dance festival, there are regional competitions where all the collectives compete for the best results and show off their skill to qualify as performers in the nationwide festival

Latvian traditional dances are very visual, dancers from every region have different traditional clothing and the dance steps, when performed with a big group of people, make up very beautiful geometrical patterns, in which traditional Latvian signs, symbols and patterns can be recognised. Latvian folkdance has origins in the tradition of the Baltic tribes who arrived in the Baltic region approximately around 2000 BC. Dances reflect on the day-to-day life of rural communities (sowing, harvesting, fishing) as well as specific events (courtship, marriage, birth) and reflect on things important to Baltic region culture (animals, birds, nature, change of the seasons). The Song and Dance Celebration tradition in 2023 will mark its 150th anniversary, which is a significant marker for a nationwide and unique movement that has been able to unite and inspire people through all these years.

Singing and playing traditional folksongs - dainas

Music is a big part of Latvian culture, especially the really traditional folksongs, also called “dainas”. There are many thousands of dainas that have been collected from all over Latvia by a writer Krišjānis Barons at the turn of the 20th century. To aid the collation of the texts in a systematic manner, Barons created a wooden cabinet with 70 compartments to catalogue the dainas. In 2001, this cabinet was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Latvian dainas are the poetic expression of Latvian everyday life through the centuries, often vocalised into simple melodic phrases, or song-poems. They not only form a part of the cultural heritage of Latvia but are also classed as symbols of Latvian identity. In the written form, dainas are most frequently two to four lines long.

There is a movement of folklore groups in Latvia that keep the traditions alive, learn the old folksongs and also stick to all kinds of other traditions of the Latvian culture. They can be met all over Latvia, often residing and meeting regularly under the care of culture centres in villages and cities, or making their own non-governmental organisations and organising activities on their own.

In this video you can see members of two folklore groups – one is an NGO “Ķekavas muzikanti”, which is also a local stakeholder in the “restART for ART” project, playing during one of their repetitions at one of the members’ home and the other folkgroup is “Dandari”, having gathered in a concert in local brewery “Labietis”. Participants from both folkgroups have taken part in the project creative mobilities and that is probably thanks to them you can hear elements of traditional folksongs at least in one of the songs of the “restART for ART” album.

Traditional salad - rasols

In the video you can see the making of a salad that is quite common for Latvians and often used in celebrations or eaten as a quick everyday meal that can be made and preserved in the fridge in bigger amounts for the whole family.

It originally comes from the cuisine of Eastern Europe and has become more popular in this territory due to the Soviet influence. Rasols was inspired by Olivier salad, invented in 1860s by Lucien Olivier, then the chef of the famous restaurant “Hermitage” in Moscow. His recipe was a well guarded secret, but the salad contained rare, expensive ingredients – grouse, crayfish, caviar, smoked duck, capers – which explains the richness of pre-war rasols. During and after the war many ingredients were not available and were replaced by simpler and cheaper substitutes – sausage for grouse, eggs for crayfish and pickles for capers – resulting in the version most Latvians will recognise as theirs.

The ingredients of the traditional rasols salad are usually potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise, some kind of soft sausage, pickles, however, people throughout generations have made uncountable variations of this list and if you were to visit several families in Latvia and try their rasols, each of them would taste at least a bit different. Variations include adding boiled carrots, sour cream, onions, other kinds of meats, spices like dill and other greens, grated apples, boiled beetroot, even herring, etc.

The overall recipe touches on nearly all the main ingredients of Latvian cuisine. Potatoes are an easy-to-grow staple served at practically every meal. Pickled vegetables picked in season from the garden and preserved for enjoyment throughout the year. Mayonnaise, sour cream provide not just flavor, but fat — a holdover from leaner times when workers needed to maintain their energy in the fields. While Latvian dishes feature few herbs and spices, dill is still practically everywhere.

Traditional IEVIŅŠ accordeon

Folklore specialist and artist Līga Broduža from a folkgroup located in Latvia, Ķekava district, is presenting one of the musical masterpieces included in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list regarding Latvia – playing the Ieviņš type diatonic harmonica.

This instrument is not very common in Latvia anymore and can mostly be met in 3 groups of people – passive tradition honorers who do not play the instrument, but recognise it as a value and might have seen or heard it during some events or in childhood homes; individuals who either have this instrument inherited by a relative as a family relic or ones that actively play it and share the traditions; or persons who during the last decade have actively participated in a special local music course that teaches the art of playing the Ieviņš harmonica.

This instrument is mostly met around central Latvia, as well as Vidzeme region, but can also be found in other places. Its sound is plump and rich and it is thanks to abnormally large number of tongues or also so called votes. 

As described by the intangible culture specialists of Latvia: “Each sound is made up of six voices that sound in octaves, with a slight shear forming a characteristic vibrating tone.

The instruments built by local masters have a whole archaic structure with flakes glued on wooden frames, as well as a special accompaniment mechanism that allows very simple playing of the cover in a broad mix of acords. The instrument has an unusually gorgeous appearance with coloured flower theme stickers, decorative register switches and large quantities of decorative metal decorations.”

Traditional pottery

Latvian traditional pottery is a craft that has been passed down through generations. It is an art form that still exists today and is highly valued by the people of Latvia. With the availability of pottery making materials, a large variety of ceramic products are made in Latvia. This craft is not only used to make traditional household items but also art pieces that have been exhibited across the world.

The art of pottery making in Latvia dates back to ancient times, but the techniques used to create these pieces are still used in modern times. The first fragments of clay dishes in Latvia were found about 5000 years BCE. The clay from the country is unique and provides a unique look and feel that can’t be found anywhere else. These pieces of traditional Latvian pottery are made using many different techniques, such as plucking, pressing, throwing and moulding. With the availability of clay, a large variety of ceramic products are made in Latvia which include everyday household items as well as art pieces that have been exhibited across the world.
In the video you can see one of many Latvian traditional clay artists, Mr. Arnis Podnieks in his everyday work at a ceramics studio that he owns. If you look closely, you might even notice another rather beautiful sight that is a part of our culture and quite natural to farmers living in the countryside of Latvia – beekeeping houses.

The process of making a clay item is rather long, it requires a lot of care and patience while preparing the clay, shaping it, burning it and colouring it (if one intends to). Clay is quite easy to work with, but does require a professional hand and some know-hows in order to create something truly beautiful as well as long-lasting.