All about music and the Baltics
Traditional music is found in every country worldwide. From the East to the West, all countries can be recognized for their rich cultures and music.
How good is your knowledge of Baltic music? Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, known as the Baltic states, offer a wide range of traditional music and folk songs. While folk music might not be your most played, knowing these historic songs will give you a deeper insight into the states’ culture and heritage. Plus, these songs are catchy too!
Get ready to discuss some great music. We’re delving into the music of the Baltic states and the history it encompasses. We’re considering all genres, from regional styles to music that defines the country.
About the Baltic states
Before we jump into each country, let’s quickly recap the Baltic states.
Located by the Baltic Sea, the Baltic states sit next to Russia and Poland. This region has a unique history, as it was once part of the Soviet Union. However, before the Soviet Union, each country was independent and had a distinct history, language and culture. These cultural elements are still present today, and visiting each country offers an educational trip for all.
Not only that, but the Baltics keep their musical heritage alive too. Residents and visitors can enjoy large song festivals and public choirs, proudly celebrating their cultural music and history. These traditions are still prevalent today, and you can find the latest music events at https://www.nordicbalticchoir.lv/. Get ready to sing your heart out with locals!
Firstly, let’s take a look at Latvia’s music. This country sits between Lithuania and Estonia, as the central point of the Baltic region. The capital is Riga, a modern city with a beautiful medieval old town.
Latvian music often includes historical poetry — known as Dainas. These short poems are usually unrhymed and one or two stanzas long. The themes of these poems include pre-Christian mythology, but they don’t feature heroes as most traditional music does. Dainas are sung with ‘drone’ vocal styles, giving them a unique sound.
Modern Latvian music still includes these traditional tunes, but rock music has become one of the most popular genres. Rock has been a favorite since the Soviet occupation, and so have folk songs.
The northernmost Baltic state, Estonia, borders the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. Estonia’s 1,500 islands make for many pockets of culture and diverse history. The capital of Estonia is Tallinn, a city with a rich cultural history and old architecture.
Estonian music is much older than most, as the earliest mentions of this country’s songs date back to 1179. In the earliest forms of Estonian music, folk songs were referred to as ‘runic songs’, and each offered poetic lyrics. This is a tradition from the Baltic Finnic people. However, by the 18th century, Estonian music became more rhythmic and folk-like.
Today, Estonia still embraces its folk music roots. There are many yearly folk festivals, and younger demographics are creating music with folk themes. Bands such as Vanilla Nika are succeeding in Central European markets, and music continues to be a focal point of their culture.
Finally, Lithuania is the southernmost Baltic state. This Baltic state offers rich natural parks, peaceful lakes, and historical architecture in all major cities. The capital of this country is Vilnius, located in the southeast of the country.
Like the other states, Lithuania’s musical culture features many folk songs. However, these folk songs have a Nordic background, setting them apart from general Baltic folk music. These songs include wind and stringed instruments, and the lyrics involve pre-Christian references.
Lithuania also boasts three distinct vocal styles: polyphony, multi-voiced homophony and monophony. These styles can be found throughout the country, but music multi-voice homophony from Samogitia is the most archaic.
Like Latvia, rock music became very popular in Lithuania during the 1980s. Big rock festivals still occur here today, proving the genre’s lasting popularity. Top Lithuanian rock bands include Happyendless, Jazzu and Jurga.
The music of the Baltic states is varied and distinct. From mythological lyrics to unusual singing styles, attending a Baltic music festival will broaden your view of musical culture. Learning new music is great for general music knowledge and a glimpse into a new culture. Will you be indulging in some Baltic tracks today? We certainly will!