Street art and folklore hand in hand. Talking about „Sviests”

Street art and folklore hand in hand. Talking about „Sviests”
Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014 . Juris Zalāns
Kaspars Zaviļeiskis
31-07-2013 A+ A-
Just about now, the new fifth post-folklore compilation „Sviests” („The Butter”) wth Krišjānis Barons on the cover is released and presented at Cēsis with the possibility to buy the record in Riga, as well. It's a decent reason to meet Juris Zalāns, manager of cultural organisation „Lauska”, they also released this record. He also curates the exhibition „Latvian Suitcae” at the former KBH house called „Stūra māja”, but let's spare this story for another time. This conversation will be about „Sviests V” and musical post-folklore.

Congrats on the fifth „Sviests” and tenth anniversary of „Lauska”!

Thanks, it really is a double celebration.


Those who have heard of „Sviests IV”, must fond of „Sviests V” too. Indeed, someone who had the choice to know this all can't stay cold and rather wishes to follow „Sviests” further activities.

Yes, people can't stay out of this. It's quite often that people buy our previous records. Then they got an interest about other CDs. Speaking of the new „Sviests”. It's our principle not to make a conception by „drawing” bands for a record and influencing a musical content. We rather give platform to create one piece in that concrete style a band plays, or even otherwise. They have their hands free to make experiments. We think the last compilation is different, because there are some foreign vibes coming from countries abroad.

„Otava Yo”, for instance.

Yes, exactly. They are a band from Saint Petersburg, well known ethno and world music ensemble that Latvians recognize well enough. Especially for those who go to „Labadaba Festival”. They played there a couple of times with great success. They use some Latvian music details in their work from time to time, so they have a full piece „Tumša, tumša tā eglīte”. So the song came out on „Sviests V”.

It's their famously known song. It was known as „Dvorņik” in Russian.

At first, they used the musical material, but added a text by Daniil Kharms. It felt weird when I heard that the first time, a popular Latvian song and Kharms' literary texts, another „cup of tea”. And it seemed extremely surreal with the video.

I find it wonderful, the fact that our musical material goes further abroad.

Another band called „Los Daugavas Nens” is included into „Sviests V”. It's a band of two Spanish guys living in Latvia. Basically they play Spanish music and then record it at „Lauska” studio with a bagpipe player Kaspars Bārbals from „Auļi”. We figured out we could offer them to transcribe a Latvian song. They thought it was interesting, so we have one more fresh breeze in our last record. One more great example, it's „Pulsa efekts” and Leila Alijeva who brings in Azerbaijan vocal vibes. It's basically our goal, to show where folk music can get, all those forked brooks of music spreading elsewhere.

The idea stays the same, to cover the new music scene of post-folklore.

That's right! Those influences from abroad, actually, it's nothing new, those examples of mixing foreign music with the local one have been before. People influence from the music abroad. Those studying ethnomusicology now are open-minded to other countries' music. In fact, folklore people have always made friends with neighbourhood from the times there was such a chance. Such musical influences seem logical to me. Here, in Latvia, the good thing is we feel local musical sense more than in, say, Denmark or Germany. Their folk musicians often choose what they like in order to play it. Whatever it is, Klezmer, Arab, African or any other motives. But in Latvia we have our own background where we can build the rest.

You can't destroy the background. It's a thing we are strong in.

Yes, and we atrract others with that.

Except grocery store, where else „Sviests” can be bought?

In music stores! Both „Upe” shops are in Old Riga, „Randoms” and „LP” at Ģertrūde Street. We give music to other botique shops such as „Rija” at Tērbata Street and online, on our web page. You can get the files on „Doremi”, as well.

Still, this record seems so valuable it should be bought as CD.

We try to work the way it's not just a record but also an additional design value. So people see the point to buy CDs.


Why there is Krišjānis Barons on the cover of „Sviests V”?

Every second year, when „Sviests” comes out, we think carefully of the design, so it's something new again. Krišjānis Barons is the background figure, but created in a street art form. It's a painting stencil used for sparing it on walls. If you wandered through Pārdaugava, you would see this picture on some wall..I find it suitable for that reason it symbolizes the ancient background showing in a fresh form.

The background HAS to show in contemporary life, otherwise it just dissapears. Barons won't be recognized soon by so many people if he is not shown in modern environment.

Even a hundred-lat note with Krišjānis Barons on it will be taken out soon..

Yes! A hundred-lat note won't be available, so, what's left is to buy „Sviests V” and put it in a CD shelve in some honorary place.

A good mix of street art and folklore turned out.

Street art is basically people's art. It's anonymous, sometimes not very well received. But it's real life, so we used it gladly this time.


For those who don't know a lot, explain about the record name, please. Latvians often use the meaning of „sviests” to describe more than just a food product.

I personally think that the greatest names are those with multiple meaning, not just one, put literally.

Yes, you could easily name the release „Post-folklore”!

Yes, it would be more precise, but not so stimulating. „Sviests” means something complete nonsense or too weird to be normal. Sometimes folk people are being related to those weirdo wearing a strange traditional footwear. It's ironic how those people are received in society, some stereotypes are still alive. Then there is another part of what „Sviests” means. Butter as the real thing, not some fast-food margarine. It's a quality and exclusivity. You can eat hamburgers at home, but you could also use ecological home-grown production to make your meal.

You are free to use „Eurovision” hamburger, it's OK. Many people do that. But you can find sometihng special. We think that we have our exclusive thing that's not the same as consuming margarine.

By „us” you mean cultural organisation „Lauska”? Could you tell more about what you've done for the last ten years?

We are a small team organizing folk and world music things, but also not forgetting about other widespread cultural projects. Basically it's still folk music. We apply for project funding and can say thanks to Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia. We also work with local government. Authorities start to value their musicians, especially outside Riga. Therefore, good things can happen. We have lots of plans, buy, you know, time tells what will be realized.

You released „Sviests”, then there are another CDs, books, concerts..

„Sviests V” is number 43 which means we have released 43 folk music records, not just five „Sviests” CDs. As soon as „Sviests” comes out, we organize a bigger concert. We even got the chance to make a one-day festival in Cesis within the City Fest. „Otava Yo” also played. Every time is a challenge for us to create something bigger and better. Speaking of music releasing, we gradually move towards the form where there is not only CD, the cover design and some brochure. It might turn out to be a hardcover book such as for „Saucējas” and „Tarkšķi”, a children's band. They have a coloured 32 page book with song lyrics, pictures..we try to add some value as much as possible, so that people would be interested in what we do.


Still, it's rather a hobby, belief, not just pure business?

I would say it's lifestyle! The same for many people working in culture or creative industries. You can't make a living of that, but you can live. The rest of the money comes from other jobs. For now, it's fine, I can do that. Besides, we make long-term projects and don't have to sell everything within six months. There is a choice to do as we like and not think about how to cut costs and sell more CDs.

It's a long-term product.

That's the main thing. Our product does not get old.

If you work in show-business, then one day it's TV show, then comes CD release, and the next day everything has to be sold, otherwise nobody will be interested in your product. We don't get that pressure, and the result gets even better.

How do you value post-folklore in the context of The European Capital of Culture? What would be the additional value from this event?

It puts the necessary emphasis. Music is an art that creates environment, you can't really avoid it if you arrive to The European Capital of Culture. It would be nice that people would see as many post-folklore bands as possible, because several of them play pretty casual music. At least, it's not complex, those are not traditional folk singers performing. Thus, you have to understand the context in order to experience the true meaning.

From the other side, post-folklore reports a local sense. It's regional offer noting why Riga is The European Capital of Culture in the first place. You can get European and world offer elsewhere, but we are no exception, of course.

If post-folklore music was performed more in here (meaning „Esplanāde 2014”, our meeting place), surrounding atmosphere would get even better. It would be just a nice local atmosphere, not just to sell some product. Maybe people would listen to such kind of music in their homes, as well.

Good idea! We have to think about „Sviests” music night next summer at „Esplanāde 2014” culture summer house.

Definitely, we would love to! Besides, „Sviests” would have applied for The European Capital of Culture project if we recorded CD next year.


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