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Concert with Margarita Šakina and traditional singing group, Riga,
March 19th 2004

      It's Friday night and the last day of winter - March 19th 2004. Out of breath I am rushing along Pērnavas street looking for the "right gate". The main thing is not to be late!
      At last two lights address me, glowing like the eyes of a dragon in the dark, inviting me to follow. I have arrived - at the Folk Music Centre (Pērnavas street 47/3, Riga), where the traditional singing group is to make its first entrance in public, along with the exceptional song-teller from Northern Latgalia - Margarita Šakina. Shortly before, the group had named themselves Saucējas (a word given to narrative form of lead singing). For the sake of clarification let me introduce them: Iveta Tāle, Aija Rozentāla, Kristīne Jansone, Kristīne Pjankova, Marianna Auliciema, Vineta Romāne, Indra Mētra.


      With this I can inform you that a genuinely good group of young girls and women has joined the community of up-holders of Latvian traditional culture. The group was gathered together about one year ago by Iveta Tāle (we all know Iveta as the leader of the famous Selonian group Klinči, which has been written into the history of the folklore movement).
      Margarita and the Saucējas - this not so easily accessible and achievable dream - to sing with a real traditional song-teller - began in the summer of 2003 when Iveta met Margarita at one of the events at the International Folklore Festival Baltica. That is when the idea was born to meet regularly and learn the ancient "voices" and songs from Northern Latgalia directly, from the source. This is probably why the singing was so genuine because each song comes accompanied by tales from Margarita's life. The singers also shared these tales with the audience during the event.
      The singers themselves are very self-critical about their singing. They have been working hard for at least 6 months but are still very far from the results they would like to achieve. The Saucējas regularly meet with Margarita in her present hometown of Ogre and are learning the dowry of songs she has inherited from her grandmother, mother and aunt. The singers have been forging their traditional singing style with Sergey and Natalya Alyonkin (leaders of the Riga Russian Folklore Group Ilyinskaya Pyatnitsa) - thanks to them for that!


      Let the singers and their teachers be the judges of their failings. As a spectator I was really moved by the mutual contact between Margarita and the Saucējas. A motherly love emanated from Margarita, looking each singer in the eyes, thus strengthening the sonority and profoundness of the songs. The singers in turn gave Margarita strength through their singing. In a way it was like a singular chain of life.
      Margarita is admirable. At her honourable age (she was 78 on March 13th of this year) she has hardly ever let on that life has sometimes been cruel. She has never complained or lamented about life's difficulties. Margarita gains strength from praying to God and singing songs inherited from her ancestors, as well as from spiritual songs from the Catholic church: "I pray to God and sing. That is where I get strength. The more I sing the stronger I am. I thank God for every day He lets me live on this earth. I live for tomorrow and put the past behind me." Such is the life's motto of this wonderful Latgalian song-teller.
      The Saucējas discovering Margarita must have been written in the stars. Margarita is grateful to all those who come to her to unravel the tangle of songs tied up in her life. Recently we have seen the song-teller at various events where she has been invited to sing on her own. But the organisers can't have known that Margarita considers it "better to sing together rather than alone because then the songs have a completely different sound".
      Margarita calls the Saucējas girls "God-given angels", thus bestowing upon them her most sincere token of love.
      On the day that this article was written spring began. For me it began the moment I heard Margarita's and the Saucējas singing.

      Sung and recorded during the concert:

      Article: Signe Pujāte, March 20th 2004
      Photos: Ieva Bērziņa
      Translation to English: Zinta Uskale

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26 January 2006

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