The Latvian Song and Dance Festival has existed in some form or another since 1873, held roughly every five years. Along with similar festivals in Estonia and Lithuania, it has been recognized by UNESCO as one of the world's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The approximately 35,000 amateur singers and dancers who travel from all around Latvia to perform the weeklong festival comprise 1.5% of the country's entire population. The centerpiece of the festival is always the final night, when the full complement of roughly 20,000 singers perform the most iconic Latvian folk songs a cappella. In 2013, a song performed on the final night was "Līgo" (a word meaning both "sway" and "summer solstice festival"). But for sheer spine-tingling pleasure, 2008's "Gaismas pils" ("Castle of Light") can't be beat.
"Far From Moscow is a resource designed to promote, catalog, and consider new music from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, together with the Baltic nations (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia)." Posts are frequent and extensive and stuffed full of fantastic songs. They also offer a dozen free sampler albums; I'm listening to and loving Apples and the more ambient Forest. [more inside]
Latvia's Tiger Economy Loses Its Bite: Less than a year after Latvia joined the E.U. in 2004, its growth rate topped all of Europe. As global stock markets overheated and competition for investment opportunities intensified, Scandinavian banks showered Latvia with cheap credit. Now, with the highest unemployment in Europe, and propped up by $10 billion in IMF loans, Latvia's economy struggles to stay afloat.
The BBC World Service has put together a special report on the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe (they also have a simpler portal). There is a wealth of material, including TV reports on key events from the BBC archives, interviews, a map timeline, a report on Catholicism's role in the 1989 revolutions, a first-hand report of what it was like to gather news in East Germany during that time and much more.
To play for a draw, at any rate with White, is to some degree a crime against chess. A Latvian Jew with ectrodactyly and lifelong kidney ailments, Mikhail Tal is considered one of the most audacious attacking players in the game's history. For a quarter century, he held the record of being the youngest man to win the World Championship. And his streak of 95 consecutive games without a loss is unmatched to this day. [more inside]
Knitting colourful and intricate wool mittens is a Latvian tradition. To welcome guests to a NATO summit in Riga in 2006, hundreds of knitters from around the country made 4500 pairs of mittens. The mittens were photographed individually before they were given away and arranged into galleries according to the region they came from. No two pairs are the same.
On July 1st, 26 year old Fiji-native Satender Singh was gay-bashed to death by several Slavic immigrants in Sacramento. [more inside]
The gaida is a bagpipe from Southeastern Europe. Gaida mp3s? Lots of 'em here. Gaida on the YouTubes? Why, yes. Yes, of course. Certainly. There's a bunch. Really. A lot. And electric ones? Yup. And here's a deflated one. But do any hippies play this thing? And dance to it? Sure! But the real question is: What is the problem with this gaida?
Boys performs ultimate Mortal Kombat fatality on friend. In related news, some would like videogame creators to be accountable for influencing the tender young minds of our children.
The European Union welcomes 10 new members! As I write this, the celebrations have started as Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia become members of the EU today. While some folks are gonna party like crazy, others are warning of doom and gloom. What do you think? Will this have significant effects on global culture, politics, and economics - or will it merely represent a paper change within the rarefied world of European diplomats, with little other than localized effects on day to day life?
The Forest Brothers spent years hiding in the woods of Estonia and Latvia. They lived alone, carefully covering their tracks, sleeping in clammy bunkers, no bigger than walk-in closets. Then things got less comfortable. (warning: nytimesfilter.)
acoustic.space.lab a project 25 media artists and activists, who converted a Soviet-era 32meter dish antenna in Irbene, in the forests of western Latvia, which also happens to be a top 5 most precise radiotelescopes in the world, into one of the coolest art projects ever. [via milov]