Neviens mani aizdziedāja, Neviensmani aizrunāja.

Es jau biju to ļautiņu, Dziedātāju, runātāju.

No one could outsing me; no one could outspeak me.

I was of those people: singers, speakers. (often quoted daina)


In fact, though musical sounds derive from the most precise and scientific mathematical relationships, ultimately they defy analysis, and their value varies with the hearer. (Skira, in his work on surrealism in painting: 176)

The word for talking runa, as other terms for sound "belongs to a sacred lexic" (Kursīte 1996: 223) in that it is seen as a magic act with concrete effect, and an aspect of ritual.

Adaptation at the edge of order and chaos

Periods of liminality are not only times of readjusting, but also times when adaptation to change may be more favorable. A complex system consists of many highly interconnected and interactive parts. According to nonlinear dynamic complexity theory, the system adapts and changes through a number of dynamic, mathematically probable solutions. It is a non-conscious process, which like poured sand achieves a stable critical state. It is self-organized criticality, a natural process that attains a suitable level. When interaction between interconnected agents is increased, the system moves from order to randomness or chaos. The maximum fitness of the system is achieved at the border of order and disorder. (cf summary in Ruthen: 130-140).

Because high levels of improvisation define the contest exchange situation, there is also the highest level of adaptation of the material to specifics. This includes the individual person being sung about, concerns of the group, and perhaps allusions to broader cultural and political concerns of the time.

Nevertheless, the classical collections already archived exhibit certain conventional and conservative elements with strong formulaic aspects.

An acknowledged function of apdziedāšanās is to avert social breakdown and ultimately, in a cosmological sense, the crises of total chaos. Kursīte observes that the songs expressing anger at the deity of fortune Laime, are always in the counterfactual mode keyed by “if” words (kaut, kad). She suggests these songs demonstrate a similar attitude as the apdziedāšanās ritual with its attempt to avert disaster through the ritual with its attempt to avert disaster through ritual with controlled use of aggression, negative characterizations, and accusations followed by placation, invocation, and offering to the goddess Laima:

It served as a type of lightning rod. The cursing of Non-luck (Nelaime) was surely followed by prayers to Luck (Laime) and sacrifice. With only the negative...the Latvian would have been eliminated long ago as unrelieved invective, complaining about one’s fate destroys one’s ability to work and to survive. The creative spirit transforms the negative as expressed in such songs as ‘I put sorrow under a rock, I went over it singing.’ (Kursīte, 1996: 244)


Folk psychology, cognition, and philosophy

In addition to confronting issues during a time designated as both liminal and temporary as well as a safe and delimited space, the issues raised in apdziedāšanās are simplified almost on an archetypal level. The formulaic phrases and imagery are stereotypical, simple, and clear. There is no attempt at sophisticated ambiguity; the other side is accused of gross failings and the response is counter-aggression. Subtle realignment, shading, and adjustment occur without consciousness on a deep system level as the pieces are moved around to redefine basic orientations and patterns.

The purpose, then, is to identify gross patterns for rapid, gross behavior reactions. Fine-tuning, finer grain, low-probability, or extremes of the continuum are not the concerns of the cultural information that is held in common, though, of course, that does not man that the folk are of inferior sensibility. Just the opposite, I believe they solve the same basic philosophical problems as formal philosophy. However, it appears "the Latvian folk" are less concerned with philosophical and absolute "truth" than with living pragmatic usefulness of the basic assumptions. The common sense allows people to conduct much of their lives without covering all the possibilities. In a sense it is a heuristic, but its weakness and difference from the more learned heuristic is that it is slower and resistant to change, if for no other reason, because it has a certain lowest common denominator to it. Thus, wisdom accumulates over a much longer period of time, truly comparable to the washing and smoothing of the pebble. The evaluation of the unusual is left for a few specialists, including the wise women who are entrusted with directing cultural performances, as well as those who are on the fringe as magic users. In times of need and crisis, even those bound to the mundane and usual may turn to the less usual and predictable for solutions.

Andy Clark in his work on folk psychology as "the use of belief/ desire talk to explain action (or better movement)" (Clark: 1) concludes that folk psychology:


...is designed to be insensitive to any differences in states of the head which do not issue in differences to quite coarse grained behavior. It papers over the differences between individuals, even over differences between species, and it does so because it is there in order to provide a general framework in which gross patterns in the behavior of many other well-adapted beings may be identified and exploited. The failure of folk-psychology to fix on, say, neurophysiologically well defined states of human beings is thus a virtue, not a vice. (Clark: 11)

Clark’s statement is, of course unacceptable if interpreted as ethnocentric chauvinism, with claims of Western cultures as standards or ideals. However, acknowledgement of basic cross-cultural cognitive prototypes is not in conflict with rich cultural diversity with each culture confronting the deep philosophical issues in its own way. What is stressed by Clark is Wittgensteinian flexibility in the boundaries of concepts as opposed to rigid borders of well-defined categories.


Apdziedāšanās type of confrontation is marked as special, and the openness of aggression, either with direct attempt to shame or openly erotic, is all the more effective in being a contrast to the everyday that has considerable aloofness, indirectness, and politeness to maintain distance and civility. The formulaic phrase about keeping honor and/or shame except for the celebration is found not just at weddings and Midsummers, but at other celebrations, such as Christmas, which celebrated pagan-style is boisterous merrymaking rather than quiet Christian contemplation, clearly set apart as to what is appropriate behavior:


Ar kauniņu vakar biju, Ar kauniņu rītā būšu,

Bez kauniņa vien tik biju Ziemas svētku vakarā. (LD 33473)

With shame I was yesterday, with shame I’ll be tomorrow,

Without shame only I was on Christmas eve.

But even as it is now rapidly becoming Westernized, traditional Latvian society is not yet in-your-face brash and aggressive in the Western sense, even today, though it may appear direct and brusque. That is because it is stereotypically a type of northern European society with little tolerance for what it considers fake displays of friendliness, since it is overtly open only to those who become known and trusted.

The spirit of comic engagement, however, has aspects that can be characterized by Cohn’s description of one type of Japanese comic protagonist "a comic hero who responds to vanity and duplicity by challenging them with brashness and bravado rather than with evasive subterfuge." (Cohn: 23) While the specific insult may in fact be indirect or devious, the confrontation by the women engaged in apdziedšānās is with the bravado of pragmatic conviction. These insult exchanges are felt to be useful in the scheme of things.

Apdziedāšanās, like Midsummer, stubbornly survived in face of all manner of attempts from outside the society to suppress or eliminate the practice. This attests to its importance to its practitioners as a ritual for spiritual and psychological survival.


Apdziedāšanās themes and topics

If one takes the most famous ethnographic singing ensemble, the Suitu sieves (Women of Suiti), as a model, there is much play and delight in the craft. These women enjoyed displaying their verbal competence , their ability to think fast on their feet, and their ability to enhance the reputation of their singing group. There is pride in thinking fast on one’s feet, and knowing the tradition well enough to come up with appropriate, new, witty retort that picks up and addresses what the other side has sung. The Suitu sieves are from a western Latvian region unusual in its history, isolated from neighbors by deep forests and bogs and by retaining Catholicism as an island among Protestants. In 1623 the manor lord had married a Polish countess who brought a Jesuit retinue with her, and her influence became legendary. (Suitu pūrs: 8) They are singled out even by other western Latvians for their high level of energy, team spirit, and pride in their region.

The ‘Kāpnieku’ women have never performed for outsiders. Their songs flow as if from the hoary past. They have not been learned; they were absorbed while still being in their mother’s bodies. It has been a part of living. One can still feel how these songs have survived as a part of ancient rituals, if sung at Easter, Midsummer, or Christmas. We feel it now also this time listening to the voices of these worthy women. The brooches glistened as the singers’ hands are thrown up all together over their heads and their voices in an abrupt, sharp, shrill screech climb with them and fly off across the tree tops, warning, and who knows, maybe also frightening those who might stand to cross the path of song and life...That is a sign that the song is now finished and a new one can be started. The old mistress doesn’t wait but in spite of her years going into a hundred, takes up a dance step, then suddenly moves up to the bee garden fence, freezes…and again the high voice resounds and even more turbulently (trauksmaināk) is drawn: “Ē-ē-ē! The bees are swarming! And she’s away! (Suitu pūrs: 74).

The folklorists writing about the Suitu women add: "Our modern day ethnographic ensemblists in the region of Suiti no longer master this technique" (of signaling the end of a song.) (p. 74) They also note the hypnotic psychological effect of repeating the monotonous melodies.

The ensemble leaders from eastern Latvia, however, point out that the less aggressive and gentler, but no less strong singers from eastern Latvia possess a different type of genuine spirit or "soul".

The subject matter of apdziedāšanās is broadly all of the social experience of the community and of the individual’s relation to it:

In the apdziedāšanās songs all of life was brought forward. The women sang about everything – what is on someone’s back, what kind of body they had, what they had at home, what was in the world in general. You felt as if you were being looked through. As if they were regional bookkeepers, but in much more detail, they knew you, what was being talked about and what was being said about you. For children this was quite an experience, and also to grown-ups not to scatter words inappropriately. They knew who was what, who was stingy, who proud, who narrow-minded. (Mežāle: 9)

According to Mežāle’s perspective, each song was taken so seriously that the individual to whom it was addressed thought and meditated on its significance afterwards. The song “had to be earned.” (Mežāle: 6) Likewise, a singer who had made a mistake and sung a “bad or inappropriate song” would take it to heart even years later. (p. 9) Mežāle as a highly religious Catholic compares the apdziedāšanās ritual to receiving communion and absolution in church; the ritual is seen as a means of cleansing and purification. (p. 8) "It was possible to overcome each failing and correct it." (p. 34) "In all cases there is an attempt to look for some kind of hope and the wish for this to happen was expressed." (Mežāle: 40) “Everyone usually knew of a transgression insofar as it was brought out in public. Everyone felt the pollution of the presence of hiding or lying about those things that were poisonous. If something unpleasant was brought out, then to balance that, at the end something to soften it was added or even something positive was found.” (Mežāle: 46 - 47) Mežāle also makes the point that having a song addressed to one is something of an honor. Thus special attention is made to address good-natured insults to the mistress or hostess of a celebration, the mothers of the bridal couple in a wedding, the Mother of Jāņi on Midsummers, and the “mother of the work party” during a work bee. (p.114) In terms of folk characterizations it would be interesting to consider if Mežāle’s view represents what is often seen as that of gentler eastern Latvia in contrast to what is seen as the more confrontational western Latvia. This essentially playful antagonism or joking relationship between čangaļi and slātavieši has been going on since the brothers Kaudzītis made the distincition in their famous novel Mērnieku Laiki.

But on an abstract level many values are understandable from a cross-cultural perspective outside of Latvia. There is an attempt to relate status/work assignments and the allocation of common resources in terms of perceived and acknowledged individual contribution to the group. Many of the attributes mocked and ridiculed have to do with the opposite of what makes cooperation and cooperative work possible. Laziness, ineptitude, greed, and stinginess are all social failings. Individual excess puts a strain on the community. Making fun of failings is a way to discourage them and to force a person to try harder to live up to group expectations:


Guli, guli, miega cūka, Tavi darbi nedarīti:

Govis guļ laidarā, Istabiņa neslaucīta. (Tdz 54450)

Sleep, sleep, sleeping pig; your work is not done.

The cows are sleeping in the byre; the room is not swept.

False praise and exaggeration are favorite devices. As Rosenbergs pointed out, parody and the ironic spirit, characteristic of an underclass, pervades the entire daina world. In contrast to a heroic age or more militant approach, boasts are seen as pretentious in the majority of the daina corpus, though the significant exception attests to an alternative orientation historically. An introductory formula claiming or conferring honor is almost certainly ironical. The skeptical, ironical view of the peasant almost obliterates another one that can be found in the boasting dainas, suggesting a more heroic and flyting mode where the swaggering is taken somewhat at face value. It also contrasts to those displaying one’s worth through display of manners, clothes, ones horse, and other possessions both straightforwardly and ironically. One outrageous nerātna daina begins with the ironic introduction "I was one honorable girl; I held to my honor" and continues with her outrageously pulling up her skirt and offering the lad her "lake for the stallion to swim in". (34625) While here the allusion may be a double meaning, one way to really insult a man was to insult his horse literally, and there are many examples among the insulting songs:


Slinki slinki kaimiņpuiši, - Nav sedliņu zirdziņam;

Pašiem glāzes, pašiem kannas, Zirgiem tukšas redelītes.

Ujā, velli, Ventinieki, Kur jūs tādi gadījās?

Šķībi rati, greizas ķēves, Noplīsuši braucējiņi. (LD 21114)

Lazy, lazy neighbor lads – no saddles for their horses;

Glasses for themselves, mugs for themselves, no hay for their horses. (387, 3451)

Hold on, devils, Ventin-folk, where have you come from?

Crooked wagons, sorry nags, travelers in rags.

There are occasions in which certain qualities are more likely to come to the fore. When the mistress/ "mother" is the subject of song, she is either praised or ridiculed for generosity or stinginess, in that her role in relation to the work party or celebrants/ "children" is that of hostess. Many of the mumming songs are of that nature, either praising or blaming the mistress and master in accordance with their generosity. The leader of a work party or else the mistress who is supposed to feed the crew is, of course, taunted for being lazy or incompetent:


Kur tā talkas māmulīte, Visu dienu neredzēta

Vai tā bija iemūrēta pašā cepļa dibinā? ( LD 28444)

Where is the work party mother, unseen all day?

Had she been cemented to the bottom of the kiln?

At christenings the godparents and honored guests are taunted for lack of generosity or stupidity, and at Midsummer the mother and father receive special attention.


Lai tur naidu, kas tur naidu, Kūmi, naidu neturiet!

Tur kūmiņi naidu tur, Tur zemīte pušu plīst. (Tdz 36805)

Krusta māte man solīja Līdz kājāmi linu kreklu;

Gara mēle pasolot, Īsas rokas iedodot. (LD 1810)

Krusttēvam, nabagam, Naudas kule aizsalusi.

Kurat pirti, krusta mātes, Kausējat naudas kuli! (Tdz 36847)

Whoever wants feud, let him have feud; godparents - don’t feud between you.

Where godparents are feuding, the land breaks in half.

Godmother promised a long linen shirt

Long tongue in promise, short hands in delivery.

Godfather, poor man, money bag has frozen.

Heat the sauna, godmothers, melt out the money bag.

In "wars between the sexes," where there is much aggressive teasing, the objects of scorn are traits undesirable in an ideal mate. Thus, the bachelors are taunted with desiring young girls, but carrying the parallel out fully, the old maids are also taunted for desiring young boys. As expected, in this group of songs, which fundamentally negotiate a desirable mate, what is scorned is lack of health, youth, and vigor in addition to indicating that a socially desirable pairing should be an appropriate age match. Along with physical and psychological qualities, each side also taunts the other for being of limited means. This group of songs, then, suggests there are some areas, such as that of courting and mating, that negotiate universal and therefore essentially unchanging values, which reduce to the old formula "if not young, then rich." Each side jokes about its superiority, while putting down the other, knowing this is a joke since boastfulness is not a normative value. The pursuers, for instance, are said to have come in rags and so ravenous for food that anything that moves is in danger of being seized and eaten. Similarly, when the obscenities begin, the other side is accused of indiscriminate licentiousness. In the ceremonies at the bride’s natal home, her kin maintain that the dowry chest is so heavy that it can’t be moved by either the men or the horses of the groom’s party, while the groom’s side disparages the bride and her retinue as lame, blind, lazy, stupid, and so on.

The age-old universal gross issues remain the same, but the specific situations and contexts are endless renegotiations, rearrangements, and reapplications. As the New Mexico potter in Henry Glassie’s The Spirit of Folk Art gathers clay, rock, and plant from the vicinity and old potsherds that are ground for temper: "Their pots contain the pots of their ancestors, whose pots, in turn, contained the pots of theirs. Sherds are recycled, consumed into an artifactual sequence that parallels the coursing of blood through the generations. The new pot also joins old ones." (Glassie, 1989: 35)


The lead singer and her repertoire

As is common in traditional societies, the lead singer does not primarily speak as an individual, but in the name of the group she represents. The lead singer is acknowledged to not only possess musical ability, including a sounding voice and improvisatory skills, but also leadership is equated with honored and skillful representation. Thus, a lead singer is expected to also have political skills, high intelligence, common sense, and the ability to assess and react situationally. The modulators – one, two, or more in number not only take up her voice, but are also her assistants who if needed will assume the role of first voice when the lead singer hesitates or is in need of help or rest. The drones round out the group as having solid collective identity, and also assist in the whole process of composition and performance.

The cybernetic relationship of individual and group is a universal, but: "In a traditional community, small acts are enough to secure a sense of individuality. Old ideas perfectly repeated or gently reshaped speak clearly to others of one’s excellence." (Glassie, 1989: 214)

There is only one monograph to my knowledge of a daina singer, that of Suitu lead singer Veronika Porziņģe, which mostly consists of her notebook in which she wrote down her repertoire and other items of folklore, minus the non-normative songs she knew. As typical, Porziņģe learned her craft from her mother, who had been used as a source by the Archives, and she also took over the repertoire of singer Zēbērģu Trīnīš. She learned from her mother’s brothers, the neighbors, and the best singers of the village, and started practicing the craft as a herder-girl calling out to other herders. As a thirteen-year old she was included in the singing group at the Alšvanga song festival. She also sang with the girls in the evening gatherings of young people. She began to have a public life after being a performer for the 1957 folklore expedition, and the formation of the Suitu sieva ensemble, which was invited to various performances throughout the years. Porziņģe did not have one of the most powerful voices, but she was an excellent composer, and worked with another lead singer, Spēkmane Katrīna (Lielā Trīne), who did have a very powerful voice. The high point of Porziņģe’s public life was to be recorded as a lead singer of one of two ensembles in the movie Pūt Vējiņi in 1973, and in 1978 to have a record made in Moscow.

Porziņģe’s musical delivery characterizes the nature of the highly improvisatory style of apdziedāšanās with an unstable melody that adapts to mood, situation, and text: "The expression of the singing can be any of different moods – cool, informative, mischievous, roguish, derisive, boastful, rebuking, deceptive, or sorrowful – it can’t really be fixed in notation...Veronika had no unsingable texts; she skillfully ‘bent’ the melody of any text for any needed purpose." (Dziesminiece Veronika Porziņģe: 22-23) Her metrical solutions were also quite varied, and rhythm was connected with the text delivery. Trochaic, dactylic, and mixed songs were sung.

Her performance on all levels was absolutely relative (to context)...including the relationship of lead and second voice...The pitch level was also determined by the caller’s activity, the importance of the event and its intensity, the tension level of the situation, and the tempo of the singing, as well as the individual peculiarities of the singer’s voice. Usually in larger events, such as weddings, christenings, or funerals the singing manner was ‘one wave,’ practically on one height, without considering how many callers replaced each other. Conscious modulation was not usually utilized. (Ibid: 22)

Porziņģe’s greatest strength was in her improvisatory ability as a lead singer, though, as needed, she also sang the modulator voice. From her repertoire:

Jūs labi ļautiņi, Mēs ari labi,

Nu mēs viens otru Gānisam. (1110)

Izskaitam mēs, māsiņas, Vai ir visas dziedātājas:

Ira Ķērsta, ira Billa, Vecā Lūža vien nevaid. (1112)

Blintenieku veci puiši Sausej eglej sakāpuši;

Egle lūza, puiši krita, Zobi bira grabēdami. (1106)

Gribēj’ mani sveši ļaudis Dziesmiņām ūzvarēt.

Tu kā krupis, es kā liepa, Kur tu mani uzvarēs. (1116)

Māte man pavēlēja Šij zemej karju vest.

No šīs zemes neiziešu, Līdz es skādi padarīšu:

Visus vadžus aplauzīšu, Galdam kājas nolauzīšu,

Medus podu izēdīšu, Puišam bērnu piegulēšu. (1247)

Bāleliņi, bāleliņi, Trinies asu zobentiņu:

Šodien tautas karju cels Par māsiņas vaiņadziņu. (1183)

Ko tie kraukļi krankšķenāja, Ko žagata žadzenājas?

Blintenieku veci puiši Rāvienej sastriguši. (1107)

Gaidi, gaidi, dēlu māte, Kad es tev sagšu segšu:

Es ūzsegšu buļļa ādu, Skries pa lauku baurjādama. (1207)

Dēlu māte, zilzobīte, Tik tā mani nenorēja:

Es ielecu kaņupēs, Viņa zobus klabināja. (850)

Nesēdēju zem ozola, Ar puisīti runājot –

Ozolam zīles bira, Puišam viltus valodiņa. (184)

Nāciet, ļaudis skatīties, Kādi ērmi tīrumej:

Piecas kaķes ārklu vilka, Tauties ara raudādams. (200)

Es izgāju māj no mājas, Labu puisi neredzēju:

Tādi vien sēņu sulas, Sila peku grauzējiņi. (199)

Dziedi, dzidi tu, puisīti, Tav jau maza dvēselīte;

Tava maza dvēselīte Putras spanne noslīkusi. (205)

Ko tie puiši laba dara Tai balte saulīte?

Ziemu beņķus nogulēja, Pa vasaru atmatiņas. (209)

Kas tur sauc, kas tur brēca Aiz kalniņa lejiņe?

Vārnas plēsa vienu puisi, Āz ausem turēdam’s. (219)

Kādu vellu vārna brēca, Kādu vellu puiši kliedz?

Vārnas brēca sliktu laiku, Puiši meitas aprunāja. (227)

Briežam ragi nodiluši, Krūmus, mežus bradājot;

Tā nodila puišu mēles, Gar meitām runājot. (228)

Ai, meitiņas, ai,meitiņas, Kur mēs liksim mūsu puišus?

Lādēsim laiviņe, Sūtīsim Vāczemē. (250)

Ko mēs, meitas, darīsim Ar Alšvangas puisišim?

Diedziņe savērsim, Sakārsim skorstene.

Aiz dorem klausijos: Ļaudis mani aprunā.

Veru dores, speru kāju, Trūkst ļaudim valodiņas.

You are good people, we are good also,

Now we’ll be fighting one against the other.

Let us count, sisters; are we all the singers here:

Here’s Kersta, here’s Billa. Only Old Luza is missing.

The Blinteniek old boys climbed a dry evergreen tree.

The tree broke, the boys fell, their teeth fell down rattling.

Stranger people wanted to beat me in songs.

You’re a toad, I’m a linden. How are you going to beat me?


Mother ordered me, bring war to this land.

I won’t leave this land until I’ve laid it waste:

I’ll break off all the pegs, I’ll break the legs from the table,

I’ll clean out the honey pots, I’ll make the lad a child.


Brother, brother, sharpen a good sword:

Today the suitors are starting a war for the sake of our sister’s wreath.

What sounds are the crows making, what noise are the ravens making?

The old boys of Blintenieki are stuck in the bog again.

Wait, wait, mother of sons until I give you the blanket:

I’ll give you a bull’s hide; you can run the field bellowing.

Mother of sons, blue-tooth, is barking at me.

I jumped into the hemp field while she was gnashing her teeth.


I didn’t sit under the oak speaking with the lad.

Acorns are falling, lying words from the lad.


Come, people, see weird things in the field.

Five she-cats pulling the plough, the suitor ploughing while weeping.


I searched house to house not seeing a good lad.

Just mushroom juice, pine shroom munchers.


Sing, sing, lad, you have a small spirit;

Your small spirit is drowned in the gruel bucket.


What good were lads in this bright sun?

In winter sleeping on benches, in summer on the fallow fields.

Who was calling, who was screaming behind the hill in the vale?

Ravens were tearing at one lad holding him by the ears.

What devil were the ravens cawing, what devil were the lads croaking?

Ravens were cawing bad weather; boys were gossiping about girls.

Stag’s antlers were worn down pushing through brush and wood;

That’s how boy’s tongues wore down talking about girls.

Girls, oh, girls, what do we do with these boys?

We pack them into boats and send them off to Germany.


What do we do, girls, with the Alšvanga boys?

Lets thread them in a string and hang them in the chimney. (255)

Behind the doors I heard people talking about me.

I kicked the door open; those folks were at loss for words.



Songs concluding the ritual:


Nederēšu, nederēšu, Jūs ienaidu iesākāt:

Jūs’ māsiņa vīru grib, Jūs ienaidu iesākat. (1252)


Gana man žēl palika Sav’ māsiņu apdziedāt:

Kam tu nāci tai vietej, Kur man tevi jāapdzied? (1250)

Saderam mēs māsiņas, Neturam ienaidiņu:

Krievi, leiši savas bruņas Lemešos izkaluši. (1251)

I won’t make peace, I won’t make peace; you started the hostilities.

Your sister wants a husband; you started the war.

I felt sorry insult singing at my sister.

Why did you come to this place where I must sing at you.


Let us make peace, sisters. Let’s forget hostilities.

Russians, Lithuanians have beaten their armor into ploughshares.

Porziņģe’s formulaic closings are similar to others published and archived:


Pazasmēju smiekliņam,- Kas smieklam nezasmēja?

Kas smieklam nezasmēja, Tas pats lieti nederēja. (LD 21010)


Visu nakti sadziedāju Tautu galdu galiņā;

Sviežat, brāļi, dālderīti, Lai dod tautas nodzerties. (LD 21146)

Ai, lūdzmai, sveši ļauži, dusmas vien neturat!

Es ar savu dzērumiņ’ Daždažādi izdziedāj’. (Tdz 58640)

Dziesmas dēļ, labi (sveši) ļaudis, Ienaidiņa neceliet!

Dziesmu dziedu, kāda bija, Ne tā mana padarīta. (LD 957)

Dziesmu dēļ, labi ļaudis, Mani jel nepeļat!

Pieder pieši pie zābaka, Pie meitām dziedāšana. (LD 960)

Saderami mēs māsiņas, Viena otrai muti dos’;

Visu mūžu dzīvojot, Ienaidiņa neturēs! (Tdz 59490)

Saderam(i), mēs, tautiņas, Saderam(i), saderam,

Neba mēs visu mūžu, Ienaidiņu turēsim. (LD 21033)

We had a few good laughs; who didn’t laugh?

Whoever didn’t laugh, isn’t worth much.



All night I sang at the end of the guest table;

Throw, brothers, a a coin; let the guests have a drink.

If you please, stranger people, don’t hold a grudge!

With my drinking I sang this and that.

For the sake of song, good people, let’s not hold enmity.

I sing the song as it was; it wasn’t made by me.


For the sake of song, good people, don’t take it out on me!

Stirrups belong with boots; singing with girls.

Let us make peace, sisters, give each other a kiss;

Let’s not hold enmity all through life.

Let’s make peace, folks, come together, fit together.

We can’t be at war, all through life.


The great folklorist Krišjāns Barons wrote about apdziedāšanās:

In the past in larger assemblies not only women and girls sang, but also men and boys. They sang together, or again and preferably, group against group, as if engaged in a song war. In the latter case the women and girls were likely to divide up into parties (pulkos), into two contesting sides. Such contesting halves were appropriate at assemblies, at work bees, at the celebrations of life’s passages, especially at weddings, as usually the participants or guests were from different villages, different counties, or even provinces. Among the villagers themselves there was no lack of opponents, fighters. Both parties stood one against the other and began to sing at each other. They sang strictly in turn: when one side finished its song, then the other side sang, replying back its own, and so both sides exchanged back and forth. (Barons, I: xxiv)

The Barons collection includes many examples of male versus female contest songs, which are characteristic of the courtship period, such as:


Nāc māsiņa, paklausies, Kas kauc meža maliņā.

Tie nebija vilku bari, Tur dziedāja ciema puiši.(1665, 181)


Citas meitas auda, meta, Ko ši ciema meitas dara? Šīs meitiņas mušas ķēra, Gar sienām staigādamas. (1599, 762)

Sīca, rūca, dundurīši, Ko tie sīca, ko nesīca?

Tie nebija dundurīsi – Tie bij mūsu ciema puiši.(17ll, 3355)

Menckas tēvam piecas meitas, Visas piecas amatnieces:

Divas bures, divas zagles, Piektā ķērnes laizītāja. (T.dz. 42400)

Puiši lēca meitu dēļ Pār degošu jumtu pāri;

Mēs, meitiņas, puišu dēļ – Ne pār bērza žagariņu.(1850, 6277)

Kurzemnieces zemas, resnas, Skābas putras strēbējiņas;

Vidzemnieces tievas, garas, Jaunu puišu – nomīlētas.(Tdz 42368)

Nāc pie manis tu, puisīti, Mūžam bada neredzēsi!

Man ir viena ratu rumba Varžu kāju piesālīta.(1850,6261)

Kurzemnieki savas meitas Zem tiltiņa pabāzuši;

Vidzemenieki izvilkuši, Par vardēm domādami. (LD 12863)

Ai meitiņas, ai meitiņas, Puisēniņus glabājiet:

Aizvedušas piesieniet Pie lielā skudru pūļa. (49, 966)

Čīkstēt čīkst mežābele, Lielu vēju salocīta;

Tā čīkstēja vecas meitas Pēc jauniem puisēniem.(1660,6569)


Aiz upītes jēri brēca, Veci puiši gavilēja;

Jēri brēca smalka siena, Veci puiši jaunu meitu.(LD 13017)


Precieties, jauni puiši, Šogad mietas lētumā:

Vesel’ duci jaunu meitu Pērk par sieku rācentiņu.(1215,15)

Cirv’s bez kāta, puis’s bez prāta Guļ celiņa maliņā;

Cirvim kātu gan ielika, Puisim prātu neielika. (1850,4262)

Kur palika tās meitiņas, Kas mūs daiļi apdziedāja?

Cita šurp, cita turp, Cita siena gubenī. (LD 20896,1)

Klausījos, brīnijos, Kas tur kauc siliņā?

Tur kauc mūsu ciema Jēcis Par zaudētu līgaviņu. (Tdz 58981)


Kas tu tāda dziedātāja, Kad tu labi nemācēji!

Nāc pie mana raibā buļļa, Tas tev’ labi pamācīs. (LD 865)

Zaķīts puisi nospārdīja Ar pakaļa kājiņām;

Es gribēju glābti iet – Aiz smiekliem nevarēju. (1599, 1361)

Ai Dieviņ, ai Dieviņ, Liela skāde notikuse:

Cūka dziesmas apgāzuse, Apenīšu rakādama. (Tdz 36397)

Čakli, čakli mūsu puiši, Tālu tautās daudzināja;:

Gultā viņiem saule lēca, Gultā saule norietēja. (Tdz 42256)

Veca meita gauži raud, Saulē pupi sakaltuši;

Tavas pašas vaina bija, Kam nelīdi kaņepēs. (LD 13138)


Es redzēju vecu puisi Sēžam elles maliņā;

Garām gāju, spēr’ ar kāju, Lai krīt elles dibinā. (LD 13035)

Dūmi kūp, dūmi kūp – Kas tos dūmus kūpināja?

Vecas meitas žurkas cepa, Pie lipiņas turēdamas. (Tdz 42605)

Mūsu puiši stiprinieki – Pieci vienu odu sita;

Vēl nebūtu nosituši, Ja pie mieta nepiesietu. (1835, 1335)

Kas tā tāda dziedātāja Izgruvušu pakaļiņu?

Tur vajdzēja zilu mālu, - Piecu Leisšu mūrenieku. (LD 34821)

Redzu, redzu, protu, protu Mūsu puiša tikumiņu:

Viss puisīša tikumiņš Alus kausa dibenā. (1860, 4312)


Metat, meitas, sīku naudu Pa vienam dalderam,

Lai varam Vāczemē Puišiem pirkt tikumiņu. (Tdz42401)


Come, sisters, listen, who is howling at the edge of the woods.

Those weren’t wolf packs; those were village boys singing.

Some girls wove and spun; what are the girls doing in this village?

These girls are catching flies, walking past walls.

Gadflies hummed and buzzed. What were they humming or buzzing? Those weren’t gadflies. They were our village lads.

Father Mencka had five daughters, all five craftswomen.

Two witches, two thieves, the fifth a churn licker.

Boys were jumping over burning roofs for the sake of girls;

We, girls, for the sake of boys, not even over birch twigs.

Kurland women, low and wide, drinkers of soured milk gruel;

Vidzeme women, thin and spindly, used up by young men.

Come to me, boy, you’ll never see famine!

I have a wagon hub full of salted frog legs.


Kurlanders had hidden their daughters under the bridge.

Vidzemers pulled them out, thinking they were frogs.

Oh, girls, oh, girls, be gentle with the boys.

Take them and tie them up to the big ant hill.

Creaking creaks the wild apple tree bent in a great wind;

So the old girls were creaking after young lads

Yon river lambs were baaing, old boys were singing full voice;

Lambs were baaing fine hay, old boys for young girls.

Marry, young lads; this year girls are cheap.

A whole dozen young girls for just a measure of potatoes.

Axe without shaft, boy without mind, they sleep by the road.

The axe got its shaft; no mind would fit the boy.

Where are the girls who sang fair songs about us?

One is here, another there, still another in the hayloft.

I listened, I wondered: who was howling in the wood?

Our village Jecis was howling about his lost bride.

Who is that singer who didn’t know how?

Come to my spotted bull; he’ll teach you how to do it.

Rabbit kicked down the boy with his rear feet;

I wanted to rescue him - couldn’t from all the laughing.

Dear God, dear God, a terrible calamity:

The pig knocked over the songs, digging among the hops.

Diligent, diligent, our boys known far and wide;

The sun rose in their bed, the sun set in their bed.

The old girl is weeping bitterly, her tits dried out in the sun;

It’s your own fault; why didn’t you sneak to the hemp field.

I saw an old boy sitting at the edge of hell;

Going by I kicked him. Let him fall to the bottom of hell.

Smoke rising, smoke rising, who is making smoke? Old girls are cooking rats, holding on to their ears.

Our lads, strongmen, trying to swat a mosquito.

They wouldn’t have killed it, if they hadn’t tied it to a pole.

Who is that singer with a caved-in rear-end?

We need blue clay, five Lithuanian masons.


I can see, I understand the virtue of our boys:

All of a boy’s virtue is at the bottom of the beer mug.

Let’s throw together, girls, small change one piece at a time.

So we can buy the boys in Germany some virtue

There are a few in-your-face rude examples, or tho

se that are designed to cut more for real, perhaps closer to American soundings, but they are a the minority in a generally playful atmosphere that is aware of limits:


Turi muti, puišu lempi, Daudz tu mani nekaitini;

Tu kā krupis vazājies, Es kā liepa līgojos. (Tdz 43873)

Kur liksiet, jauni puiši, Vecu meitu dvēselītes? Liekat dzelzes kastītē, Metat jūras dibinā, Lai tur rūca, lai tur kauca, Lai mūžam neceļās. (LD 13068)

Shut your mouth, bumpkin yokel boy, don’t annoy me too much.

You were dragging around like a toad. I was swaying like a linden.

Where, young lads, do we put the souls of old girls? Let’s put them in an iron chest, throw in the bottom of the sea.

Let them roar, let them howl; may they never arise.

The aggression and pain inflicted on the target is supposed to be limited. In some ways it resounds with the philosophy of the contemporary punk mosh pit in which the elbow jostling and slamming is supposed to be an affirmation of trust and fellowship, a statement that I can hurt you, but I won’t. It is also trust as when a participant leaps off the stage with the expectation he will be caught unharmed and not allowed to fall to break his neck.

Barons writes of the endless supply of apdziedāšanās songs within the tradition from which a skilled performer could pick to adapt to her needs:

The primary singers in each group, the sācējas, were totally competent: a song fit against another song, as if it were specially composed in answer to it. Whichever side had the better sācēja, that side had the advantage and became the winner. But often also both sides had excellent sācējas and then they contended for fun until they had to quit. Two singing groups contesting, purposefully offend each other, sing about (apdzied); especially they attack the teicēja (lead singer), but the contesting didn’t lie only in the singing itself. The richness of each group’s repertoire, the esthetics of the song, the sounds, the good-soundingness of the voice, and manner of attractive singing were of importance. It was easier for the singers to collectively sing about the guests individually, though sometimes the guest might retaliate in song. Girls in particular singled out boys during apdziedāšanās. They attacked fiercely, no matter if reprimand was merited or not, perhaps who loves also teases. (Barons, I: xxiv-xxv)

However, while the teasing songs most relevant to courting young people are a very important part of apdziedāšanās, and perhaps the most common function today, the phenomenon is not restricted to it and the model and its field is broader. Apdziedāšanās concerns itself with the broad spectrum of relationships people have to each other and to the world. Thus, there are songs with much more realistic hostility along the fault lines of society, between in-laws. In the courting stage, the tension and hostility is between suitor and the mother of the girl he wants to court. The longer-term and central problematic relationship in a patrilocal marriage is of the young wife and her husband’s mother, as the two women who are central to the household and potentially in a power situation conflict. There is also secondary tension between sisters-in-law (māršas). Barons states:

Where do we place the songs about the mother of the son and the daughter-in-law? Few of these songs speak of good, friendly relationship; most of them are mean, spiteful, and swaggering. Each side puts down and disdains the other to the fullest. Those are the apdziedāšanās songs at weddings, sung by both antagonistic sides, of bride chasers (panāksnieki) and bride nappers (kāzinieki). In these songs harsh reality is hidden. By depicting in sharp, bold language what mean life is like and its disastrous consequences, the intent is actually to prevent such disaster. Similarly the opposing side puts down the bride and bridegroom mercilessly. Are we to judge from these songs that our boys and girls are really so lacking in honor? Even those about whom the songs are being sung know well and understand this and therefore do not take even the most hurtful censure at face value, and don’t misinterpret it askance. (Barons, I: xx).

Many of the songs in the Barons’s collection about negative relationships between members of a household, especially if exaggerated, may have been used in an apdziedāšanās context:


Māte savu dēlu teica, Kas to sliņķi nezināja?

Miega pūznis, krogus žūpa, Ne maizītes arājiņš. (LD 15602)

Šķitu lāci lampājot Pa lielo tīrumiņu:

Tas pats mūsu jaunais znots Leinajām kājiņām. (LD 16270)

Paraugies, man’ māsiņa, Kas tev sēd ieblakam:

Tautas dēls sarkanacs, Gauž’ asaru dzērājiņš. (LD 21 464)

Tā tā īstā brūtes māsa, Ar tām kuiļa nadzenēm;

Ar tām kuiļa nadzenēm, Kašķainām lūpiņām. (Tdz 58525)

Ai, māsiņa, ai, māsiņa, Kādi tavi vīra radi:

Kā piestiņas, kā rumbiņas, Kā lielie laivas gali. (LD 20106)

Bij tam mūsu svainīšam Šādas tādas pudlītes,

Citāi bija brandviņš, Citāi ķēves mīzaliņi. (LD 34503)

Kas tā tāda melna vista Kaņepēs kladzināja?

Tā nebija melna vista, Tā bij mana vīra māte. (LD 23299)


Asa, asa purva zāle, Vajag asas izkaptiņas;

Barga, barga dēlu māte, Vajag bargas vedekliņas. (LD 23188)

Aiz purviņa ābelē Sēdēj’ viena velna māte;

Tā nebija velna māte, Tā bij mana vīra māte. (LD 23183)


Traka, mana vīra māte, Bukam lēca mugurā.

Vai tu lēci, vai nelēci, Dēls jau manā kabatā. (Tdz 46724)


Vīra māte priecājās, Kad vedekla krēslu sniedz.

Šī pacēla ērkšķu krūmu, Lai sēd gurnus grozīdama. (Tdz 46736)

Dēlu mātei stāvi ragi, Kupla aste pakaļā.

Tavus ragus nolauzīšu, Tavu asti svilināšu. (LD 23237)

Gana bija meitu māte Savu meitu pušķojuse:

Deguntiņu izdrāzuse, Lūpas biezas atstājuse. (LD 20163)

Meitas māte vēdājāsi, Kur būs likti vīra māt’.

Plauktā lika, žurkas ēda, Pagrabāi – circenīš’.



Augat, mani balti lini, Augstajāi kalniņā!

Lai es varu virvi vīti, Vīra maāti slīcināt.


That mother was pushing forth her son. Who didn’t know this looser?

Sleepyhead, pub boozer, not a ploughman for bread.

I thought I saw a bear toddle across the great field:

That’s our own new son-in-law, slow on his feet.

Look, here, sister, who’s sitting next to you:

The future husband, red-eye, a drinker of bitter tears.

That’s some bride’s sister with boar’s hooves;

With boar’s hooves, with scabbed lips.


Oh, sister, oh, sister, what in-laws you have:

Like mortars, like hubs, like the ends of a boat.


Our brother-in-law has bottles here and there;

In some there is whiskey, in others mare’s piss.


Who is that black hen, clucking in the hemp field?

That wasn’t a black hen; that was my husband’s mother.

Sharp, sharp the marsh grass in need of a sharp scythe.

Harsh, stern the son’s mother, in need of a stern daughter-in-law.

Behind the bog in an apple tree, sitting a devil mother;

That wasn’t a devil mother; she was my husband’s mother.

Crazy, my mother-in-law, Jumped on the back of a ram.

Jump or don’t jump, mother-in-law, your son is in my pocket.

Mother-in-law was honored, daughter-in-law gave her a chair.

She picked up a thorn bush, sit there wiggling your hips.

Son’s mother has pointed horns, a thick tail in the rear.

I’ll break off your horns, burn off your tail.

Girl’s mother had dressed her daughter enough:

Whittled down her nose; left thick lips, though.


Daughter’s mother didn’t know what to do with husband’s mother.

On the shelf the rats were eating, in the basement the crickets.

Grow white, my flax on the high hill

So I can make a rope to drown my husband’s mother.

The last song becomes vicious with no playful elements, and though it isn’t taken seriously, is atypical in that it better fits with the type of cruel pre-combat male humor analyzed by Kurlents in Russian bylinas. Overall, even when they become explicit, Latvian daina humor has a dominant lightness and playfulness (rotaļājoš) about it when compared to male dominated heroic flytings of neighboring peoples.


Nonresponsorial singing humor

Apdziedāšanās humor can be also situated if compared to humor that takes place in nonresponsorial singing as well as everyday banter that is not sung. Thus there are examples of songs formed of chained distichs, which individually could be used in an apdziedāšanās improvisatory responsorial situation, but the two separate voices are sung by the same singer as a frozen quatrain or chained song. Thus in one Latvian summer intensive camp the participants were handed out examples of call and response that were sung monophonally by the group, even though the first part could be sung by males and the second part a response by females:


Dzied gailīti, vai nedziedi Nebuūs gaismas vakarāi,

Nebūs gaismas vakarā.

Raud, meitiņa, vai neraudi, Nebūs mana līgaviņa.

Es par tevi tēva dēlsi Visai daudzi nebēdāju.

Es pie tava deguntiņa Zelta trepes nenesīšu.

Ellē dziedi melni gaiļi Vaskaināmi kājiņāmi.

Tā dziedāsi tie puisīši Kas peļ meitas tikumiņu.

(Xeroxed handout, unknown date or seminar, Garezers summer workshop.)

Sing rooster, or don’t sing. There won’t be light in the evening. There won’t be light in the evening.

Weep, girl, or don’t weep. You won’t be my bride. (Repeat as above)

For you, father’s son, I don’t sorrow much at all.

I’m not bringing to your nose any gold ladder.

Black roosters were singing in Hell with waxen feet.

That’s how the boys were singing who were putting down the honor of girls.

There are many examples of humorous bantering between the young men and women in the cycle of courting songs (precību dziesmas, such as 1378-1417, but especially 1394-1399 from Kurzeme, in Precību dziesmas (Vītoliņš, 1986) in the spirit of “I can drink and live it up until the morning light arose.” (p. 25). There is also a large corpus of songs where girls defend their reputations against the gossip of the elders and that of the boys (cf 1620-1626) (p. 29). The songs are sung at different formal courting periods:

They are not analogous to wedding apdziedāšanās songs, which are collective two side songs and are sung in recitative melody and burdone polyphony with caller, folder, and drawer voices. Courting songs are individual boy or girl songs in a developed singing style...Very common is the type of boy’s song that starts with the introductory formula, "Come to me, girl, you won’t ever see famine," followed by a humorous negation, "In winter I’ll let you crunch ice, in spring you can munch green grass." Especially many melodies of this type have been recorded from Vidzeme, almost none in Latgale; all were written down in the 1850s. The quick accents of the melody - major, Phrygian or Mixolydic, most often in two part simple meter completely conforms to a frantic text declamation. (Vītoliņš, 1986: 28)

Courting songs is one area where male voices are well represented, including songs about rejected suitors and their fantasies of revenge, dialogue with the mother of the daughter who guards and can deny access to courting privileges, and of the hoped-for girl becoming someone else’s bride. Significantly, the jilted or lost lover is not at all a woman’s genre. In the songs, it is the girl who causes the boy grief because she or her mother has rejected him, or she has broken the pledge. (Vītoliņš: 30)

An example of a contemporary genre in Latvia inspired by dainas is nežēlīgās (merciless) dainas. They are humorous satires loosely based on daina structure and often irreverent or bawdy. Usually they circulate something like broadsides on pieces of paper, and are sent in to a radio program b.b. brokastis (BB Breakfast) hosted by Andris Freidenfelds and Kaspars Upacieris (Fred and Ufo) who have a program similar to "Bob and Tom" in the Bloomington area. They put out several cassettes around Midsummer:

Vai tur riesto dinozauri? Nē - tas kaiminjš: viņjš pūš tauri!

Mēs šīs skaņas spēcinājām, Kaķi vannā brēcinājām.

Is that the mating of dinosaurs? No it’s neighbors playing horn!

We amplified the sounds a bit. Giving the cat a bath.

On Dec. 30, 2000 Māris Jānis Vasiļevskis submitted from memory an example of a modern folk song he called ziņģe, a parody of a popular classic folk song:


Man ar rozēm pilna grīda, lai nāk tautu dēls un mīda,

Vai kāds nelabais šo dīda, ka vispirms pie senčiem līda?

Tēvs grib tikt no manis vaļā, sola mani balsī skaļā.

Māte liedz un puisi paļā, kāda gan nu šai tur daļa?

Neizdosies vis tik lēti mammu saskaņot ar tēti.

Būtu atnācis uz klēti, sen jau būtu noformēti.

The floor with roses I have strewn; suitor, come and trample.

Is some devil driving him; he’s crawling to the old ones.

Father’s getting rid of me; promises in booming voice.

Mother faults him, and denies; what concern is it of hers?

It will take some major steps, bringing mom and dad to terms.

All he had to do was come - to the barn and it’d been settled.

The original classic folk song is somewhat humorous but mostly it expresses youthful rebellion against authority, "Rozēm kaisu istabiņu” (With roses I strew the floor, waiting for the suitor) the girl upon seeing the male kinsmen of the suitor who have come in his stead, brooms the petals under the bed and jumps out the window to avoid them. In the new ziņģe – parody the motif of the disputing parents is retained, but instead of taking evasive action, in the modern parody the enterprising modern girl is ready to force the issue on her terms.

What, then, is involved in apdziedāšanās on a deeper structural level? Is it a music-centered forum for discourse and performance? My approach was to explore the phenomenon from different perspectives, exploring its relationship to fundamental concepts within the culture, including those of time and space, using the resources developed in different disciplines.

The performer reacts to the previous message by utilizing traditional formulas invested with meaning appropriate to the new circumstances. As the performance proceeds, the power of the ritual and music, the repetition and incremental tension, not only give back something of what appears to have been heard before many times and by extension is perceived as eternal, but invests the performance with new meanings that first of all releases tensions, but also refreshes and gives new strength, purpose and insight.