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.