Latvia, the nation that loves to sing

Besides their forests and nature, if there’s one thing any purple blooded Latvian will tell you they love, it’s bursting into song. This is reflected in many of the cultural events: The Latvian Song and Dance festival is one of the biggest choir events in the world. They even have popular tv shows based around choir singing. “Koru Kari” (Choir battles) has been on Latvian tv for several years. Riga at the moment is hosting the World Choir Games and, as this article on it notes, demonstrations like the Singing Revolution are seen as important events on the road to securing Baltic independence from the USSR.

There are restrictions to the enthusiasm, though. I’ve had many a student tell me how much they love to sing in a local choir, but when I ask them to give me a demonstration (in any language) much nervous shuffling of feet, blushing and staring at shoes precedes a period of awkward silence before I give up. This is reflected in the nightlife scene. Go to Ireland, the UK, Spain or anywhere in Western Europe and you’ll find lots of bars doing karaoke nights, full of beer-bellied middle-aged guys dreaming they’re Enrique Iglesias, but usually sounding like a geriatric cat being tortured. In Latvia, karaoke nights are hard to find, as again, the idea of singing solo in front of strangers has Latvians running for the hills. Then again, given how dreadful karaoke nights in the UK are, maybe it’s not totally a bad thing.

My academic year comes to an end this week. I’ve spent it preparing Latvian civil servants (a pleasant and jolly bunch of people) for the forthcoming EU Presidency. I must have said once, miserably, that it was a shame that Latvia, despite its choral tradition, didn’t seem to have any anthem, either official or unofficial, for the Presidency. My students got right on the case, deciding that for our last class together, they would compose and perform a song about Latvia’s EU presidency.


I tidied up some of the lyrics for them, but many of them they refused to change on the grounds of artistic license. Artistic license or not, I wasn’t sold on the “oooo the presidency ours” chorus and wanted to change it to “the presidency’s ours”, but they were adamant, so I backed down on that one.

I tried to upload it here but wordpress doesn’t like the file format so to the dreaded Youtube it goes (link here.) Sure it has flaws, but everyone had fun and isn’t that the main thing? The dubstep remix is surely inevitable.






2 thoughts on “Latvia, the nation that loves to sing

  1. The reason you cannot get a Latvian to sing a solo for you: it’s the whole reason they are in a CHOIR – to sing with a group of people! I sing with a small Latvian folklore ensemble, but I am absolutely not a soloist, so if someone puts me on the spot and wants me to sing on my own, if my common sense fails me and I actually do so, they’ll probably wonder if I’m actually telling the truth about singing in an acapella group! Plenty of people are good singers when part of a group, but less than great if singing solo (especially acapella). And isn’t it maybe good in this case that Latvians are not overly confident in their abilities – because who wants to listen to fat middle-aged men who sound like an old cat being tortured?! Sure, a minute of that might be amusing, but no more than that! And Latvians are probably far more prone to break out in group song at a private party than any other nationalities.

    Anyway, cute song, but the lyrics are very difficult to understand. Could you maybe post those?

    • It’s interesting, though. Anywhere else I found that people who love to sing will welcome any opportunity to sing, regardless of whether it is as a group or solo. Latvians are the only nationality I’ve met like that. I have the lyrics to the song, I’ll try and post them, but with the summer in full swing and the weather good, my blogging is at reduced speed 🙂

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