Latvia's premiere postfolk group celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011. In the past five years ILGI released three albums and played at festivals and music venues across Europe, the United States and Latvia. Its most recent album, "Tur saulite perties gaja", was named Best Folk Album of 2011 by the Latvian music industry, and debuted on the World Music Charts Europe at No. 4 in April, 2012. As noted by the WMCE, "Celebrating their 31st anniversary, Ilgi reveal no sign of their longevity, at least musically speaking."
In reviews of the 2009 album "Isakas nakts dziesmas" World Music Central called ILGI part of a "fresh wave of contemporary folk" and fRoots dubbed it "Latvia's leading roots band."
ILGI combines a deep understanding of Latvian folklore with various musical styles and instruments for a sound simultaneously ancient and contemporary.
In the beginning ILGI was an ensemble of authentic Latvian folk music. They visited remote parts of Latvia in search for unrecorded folk songs, studied the traditional performances, as well as built their own instruments. The studies of the authentic music led to interests in the ancient history, archeology, ethnography, mythology and traditions. Unfortunately these fields of interest held a lot of information considered dangerous by the Soviet regime ruling in Latvia at that time. Performances had to be approved by party officials in advance. From the very beginning ILGI found it hard to adjust to the musical language and understanding prescribed by the communist ideology and was banned from being mentioned in the media due to their uncompromising interest in the most fundamental and sacred layers of folk-lore the traditional values, the traditional cycles of life in harmony with nature, family celebrations and the ancient mythology.
The listeners of ILGI had to wait ten long years to get acquainted with the group's creative endeavours - till the communist empire had collapsed. Ilga Reizniece: I think from the very beginning we were different from the authentic music ensembles in the traditional sense. We have always been interested in music as art, not just the folk-lore aspect of it. There always has been a dual purpose of the group: we had to fulfill our mission in preserving the Latvian heritage, return the forgotten lore to the nation, but at the same time we really enjoyed just playing the music. We did both things until finally we could let ourselves loose, however that only happened in the early nineties.
Throughout the early nineties the instrument choices and the creative pathways of ILGI music were dominated by the reflective, solemn mood. At the end of the decade it was surpassed by boisterous vivacity instrumented with a set of drums and electric strings. A shift in creativity was brought on by Gatis Gaujenieks joining the group in a capacity of a musician as well as sound artist and producer. Their first joint effort, the CD Saules meita, won The Grand Music Award and The Annual Award for the Best Record. The modern sound was more appealing to young listeners and helped to make authentic folk music more popular among those age groups as well as acquainted the younger generation with the traditional values. Saules meita and the following CDs by ILGI ensured that the traditional Latvian tunes took a permanent place in youths' music libraries alongside the ubiquitous Western pop music.
The search for new means of expression in music inevitably led to recruiting new members in the group. Ilga Reizniece has been there since the beginning. Maris Muktupavels, the piper and kokle player, began one year later. They were joined by Gatis Gaujenieks (1997) on bass and giga (an ancient latvian folk instrument), Egons Kronbergs (2001) guitars, and drummer and percussionist Martins Linde (2008).
Thirteen albums have been produced by ILGI: Rami, rami (MC; 1993), Barenu dziesmas (1993), Riti, riti (1996), Saules meita (1998), Seju veju (2000), Agrie gadi (2 CD; 2002), Speleju, dancoju (2002), Kaza kapa debesis (2003), Totari (2005), Ne uz vienu dienu (2006), Ej tu dejot (2008), Isakas nakts dziesmas (2009), and Tur saulite perties gaja (2011). Five received the annual award of Best Folk Album from the Latvian recording industry. A selection of songs from 2001-2009 albums was released as "Izlase" (2011).
A lot of ILGI music is aimed for children and teenagers. Ilga has been a music and folk-lore teacher for many years. The group loves to perform at schools. In 2004 ILGI produced a CD Rami un ne together with the winners of the singing competition of the childrens' folk-lore festival Pulka eimu, pulka teku (PEPT).
For years ILGI has taken part in creating a series of CDs Latviesu tautas muzikas kolekcija (The Collection of Latvian Folk Music). The series contains traditional records as well as modern interpretations of Latvian folk music. In 1999 the second CD of the series Latviesu danci (Latvian dances) which was compiled by Ilga and Maris to promote the authentic Latvian folk dances, received The Grand Music Award.
The mood of ILGI music ranges from reflective, almost meditative calm, empowering the listener to overcome the sorrows and troubles, to unstoppable, bubbling vitality. Different moods create a musical entity, multi-faceted as life itself, true to the eternal cycle and rites of human life.
From 1989 ILGI have taken part in numerous music festivals in neighbouring Estonia and Lithuania as well as in Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Great Britain, Switzerland, Australia, USA, France, China, and gained both the sympathies of the listeners, and raving reviews from the press. The fact that ILGI is an integral part of the music world wide was confirmed again in July 2006 when Ne uz vienu dienu was voted the 2nd best European world music recording by the experts of World Music Charts Europe (WMCE). Returning to the WMCE chart at No. 4 in April 2012, ILGI still has not been surpassed or equaled by any other group working in similar genre from Latvia.
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