Latvian Song and Dance Festival takes stage every 5 year. Latvian song and dance groups all over the world practice for this festival for 5 years.
Latvian song and dance culture is one of the biggest reason that Latvians weren’t assimilated under other cultures in period of 700 years of occupation. These remind them who they are and where they come from. Because of this Latvian Song and Dance Festival is very important for them.
History of Latvian Song and Dance Festival
Latvian and Lithuanian are one of the oldest languages in European history. As you may see on the video below roots of languages start from Anatolia (Turkey) and spread from there. First language to spread to Europe is Balto Slavic language family. Baltic part of it is Latvian, Lithuanian and Latgalian.
It would be pity if that old language would be assimilated under another culture. But Latvians protected it with their songs and dances. Did you know that Latvia has the most folk songs on the world?
Latvian Song and Dance Festival took place first on 1873. But i guess most popular period on history is at Singing Revolution. Singing Revolution is a kind of rebellion and resistance against USSR. Thousands of people start to sing “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” (My homeland, my happiness ve my joy) and this triggers revolution on other Baltic countries. I watched a short documentary about this. One of the person who lived these moments said “20.000 people started to sing together. They couldn’t know whom to arrest or whom to shot. They weren’t able to shoot all of us. That is why they couldn’t stop it”
Because of this reason patriotic songs took place more at Latvian Song and Dance Festival. I have seen people from audience and singers who were crying while singing. Emotional moments…
My process to go to festival
Latvian Song and Dance Festival takes place every 5 years. It is the most important organisation in the country. Because of that it is hard to find tickets.
One of my friend sent me link when tickets were on sale online. When i checked the website it was writing that there was a queue and i had to wait 25 minutes. My turn came around 2 hours later but all tickets were sold. It was a total disappointment for me. I was gonna miss this festival which is at the same year of Latvias 100th year of independence. My friends told me that tickets will be sold on black market around 200-250 € (Which is nearly equal to minimum salary price in my country). Orginal price was 45-55€. So i had to cancel this plan.
I got a message from a Latvian friend around 1 month later. She had extra tickets. I jumped in ofcourse! Festival takes place around 1 week but biggest shows are the last shows. One of them is dance and other one is song show. I bought tickets for both. 55 € pr ticket. In short i had a good chance (I have good karma about Latvia 🙂 )
But at festival i have met one of my follower from my Turkish blog. We have met face to face with him. Mr. Süleyman have moved to Latvia-Jurmala and lives there. He had 2 guests from Turkey and they found ticket this way at the entrance 🙂
Dance show of Latvian Song and Dance Festivals took place on 7 July evening. Event was going to start at 22:00 at Daugava Stadium. I have walked from my hotel which was in old town. It took 25-30 minutes from me. I have arrived there around 21:00. I found a kebab place on the paralel street. I wanted to get stuffed before i get in stadium. Then we have met with my friend who was one of the dancers in the show. She told me about the theme. Dance choreography was telling about first Latvians appear in area till today. A Latvian history by dances. I can not say that i understood everything in show as i am not expert in Latvian history but it was an impressive show. I guess i need to read more about Latvian history for my next visit. But anyway it was very proud moment for me to be in this limited number of people who were lucky to watch it live.
Name of the show was Maras Zeme. Mara is the biggest goddess from their paganic belief period. And Maras Zeme means “Lands of Mara”.
There were around 18.000 dancers. It took place nearly 2.5 hours. I didn’t ask but there were less auidience than dancers. Latvians have dance and song groups. You may join these groups and practice for 5 years for this show. They have groups out of Latvia also. At the end of the show every group brought their own flags with emblems.
I think song show was more emotional. It took place at Meza Park. It started around 20:00 but there was a huge crowd. I made a mistake and i left my dinner time to last moments. Because of queue i could get in 30 minutes late to the show. They don’t let you to walk between seats while people sing on stage. You have to duck down or sit on ground if they start to sing while you walk to your seat. So i had to sit on the ground at the first song which i listened live.
I knew some of the songs which were sang. One of them was national anthem. Most of the songs were patriotic. I have seen people crying while singing from audience. I have made a compilation from the 5 songs which i liked most at festival. There were singers also crying as you may see on the video which is below.
Show took place around 4-5 hours. Singers and audience got united after the show. They started to sing all together. It was like a karaoke for me because lyrics were on the screen which was at upside of the stage. We have left the are around 3:00 with my friend who was singing in the show. We went back to old town with tram. But people kept on singing at tram. Latvians like to sing!
This was an unforgetable experience for me. It was privilege for me to join Latvian Song and Dance Festival on their 100th year of independence while many Latvians couldn’t find tickets.
Meanwhile i have seen some other interesting places. For example Riga Mevlevi Dargah. I will write about them also later!
You may watch my favorite 5 performances from Latvian Song and Dance Festival below 🙂