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Showcase Interview: New generation of Latvian jazz – Kristīne Prauliņa & Friends
Rigas Ritmi Festival 2015 will take place in Riga, in the first week of July. Also, the Rigas Ritmi Festival Showcase programme will take place on 2nd - 3rd July as part of the festival, where Latvian performers will present themselves to foreign experts of music and guests of the festival.
The new generation of Latvian jazz – Kristīne Prauliņa & Friends – will participate in the festival's Showcase programme on 2nd July and with the concert at the open-air leisure park "Egle" on 4th July. The band consists of vocalist Kristīne Prauliņa herself, bass player Reinis Ozoliņš and drummer Rūdolfs Dankfelds among other musicians.
In the case of Showcase, the first question is – what is "Kristīne Prauliņa & Friends"?
Kristīne: It’s new, original musical material, composed by Reinis Ozoliņš.
Rūdolfs: Our common musical taste has finally materialized. Primary, these are the composition of Reinis and lyrics by Kristīne, but we work together as a band.
Do you have a particular style?
Kristīne: Reinis once said that I bring more of soul, Rūdis is more into rock, but Reinis adds blues to the mix.
Reinis: So, when we come together, it’s possible that some fourth style, yet unnamed, emerges.
But you have other musicians in the band in addition to you?
Kristīne: The band is quite big – there are ten people on the stage.
Are other members more like performers or do they participate in the creative process as well?
Reinis: Everybody, who performs with us, is more than welcome to add something of their own. This happens a lot and it’s cool. A musician plays something not because I want it that way, but also because they are into it as well. The goal is not to highlight one musician or composer – the goal is to make good music.
While you perform, is it some kind of a jam session or is everything pre-arranged?
Reinis: It depends on the composition. Both approaches have been used. We have some very specific things that we have been working on, that we have rehearsed and arranged. And we also have pieces created in that jam session feel.
Showcase gives you about a half an hour to perform. Will your concert programme have different compositions or, on the contrary, will you focus on a unified style?
Rūdolfs: We would like to create a musical story, similar to what we performed in the Superfinal Concert of the International Jazz Artist Contest “Riga Jazz Stage 2015”.
Reinis: Of course, we will have some fresh ideas, new music, and other colours. We are not trying to fit into any style and to limit ourselves; we follow out inner voices. Still, if we have to name styles, it might be some improvisational jazz mood, blues, soul and rock. It’s hard to predict; I write according to my mood in that moment.
Is this a completely new project or have you played together before, and this is a certain band named “Kristīne Prauliņa & Friends”?
Kristīne: This is a temporary name.
Reinis: It was a duo for about two years.
Rūdolfs: Bass plus drums, but then we understood that the sound was not as rich as we wanted it to be. We started looking for some more colours to add.
So you asked Kristīne to join and the band got its present temporary name. Will you continue working together also after Showcase? Maybe, with recording some album?
Reinis: Yes, we are planning to record as well.
Can people see and hear you also beyond the Showcase programme?
Reinis: We will also perform at the open-air leisure park “Egle” in the evening of 4th July within Rigas Ritmi Festival. But after that – different world-famous festivals! (Laughs)
Exactly, you will get noticed at Showcase and respective offers will follow!
Reinis: Time will show.
You belong to the genre where making different project is no unusual, instead of making music together as, for example, a rock band. Reinis and Rūdolfs, for example, are members of “The Presence of JR”, which will perform at Showcase too. This means switching over even within the Showcase programme. Does it happen organically or do you have to put an effort in it?
Rūdolfs: It is organic for me, because I love the music of both – Jānis Ruņģis and Kristīne Prauliņa – equally. It’s the music which I like to perform best, I feel best in it.
Reinis: I feel the same. Both fit together well.
So there is no point of talking about competition?
Rūdolfs: Absolutely no. That concept has no place here.
Kristīne, your name headlines this project. Do you perceive this project as primarily yours and do you try to emphasize how you look and sound?
Kristīne: Of course! This is the first project where I feel completely myself; where I feel at home. When I participate in other projects, I felt like the performing artist, as an interpreter. Here I have my own lyrics and the music of Reinis, and I always felt his music close to my soul. This is a very special project, and I really want my name on it. I can stand tall and say – this is me!
Are your lyrics in English or in Latvian?
Does it sound better?
Kristīne: I don’t know if it sounds better. This is my current expression that comes out of me. But I think that with time, I could write in Latvian as well, which I find more difficult. Perhaps, English seems more organic for the music we perform.
What have you and maybe this project too gained from you winning “Riga Jazz Stage 2014”?
Kristīne: For me, personally, it’s confidence. Without it, maybe I wouldn’t tell Reinis to write music for me!
Reinis: The ideas and thoughts about cooperation emerged before the competition. The competition, I guess, gave more strength to Kristīne, and, of course, additional recognisability. And I stand by Kristīne with the same equally strong feeling for this whole thing, because I write music from my true senses and personal emotional experience. Many compositions are very old, and, thanks to Kristīne and Rūdolfs and our harmonic musical chemistry, we can make something that we are happy about to give and show to others.
Kristīne: Everything has turned out this way together. This step was important for me.
This was not your first victory. You have also won the street art and sports movement “Ghetto Games”, which is not primarily associated with vocal art.
Kristīne: Yes, there was a competition for vocalists, and I won it. It was an opportunity to prove myself that I could do it. Not to surpass someone else, but to overcome anxiety and bring my message on the stage.
Some musicians dislike competitions as such, because they think that art cannot be evaluated this way.
Kristīne: I completely agree, but it is a very valuable experience too, if you perceive them in a healthy way.
Reinis: I think that competitions must be perceived as festivals – you just have to come and perform well.
Kristīne: I perceive them as a challenge first. I love sports very much; I have the sportsman’s spirit in me and the willingness to excel.
Let’s make brief résumés of education and other projects for each of you! Kristīne?
Kristīne: I have secondary school education without musical direction. At the age of 12, I started singing in a gospel choir and then I became interested in music. I fell in love with that world, and I still sing there. Four years ago, I became very interested in jazz. I began going to concerts and jams, I watched those guys and thought - wow, so wonderful!
Did you attend any master-classes of Rigas Ritmi Festival?
Kristīne: Yes, I have attended them, but only a few. I gradually begun performing with musicians.
Until last year, when you recorded an album with Raimonds Pauls, called “Melns ar baltu” (Black and White).
Kristīne: Yes, I have had such experience as well. I began singing also with Latvian Radio Big Bang. So everything developed slowly.
More like rapidly! Reinis?
Reinis: At first I studied academic music – violin and double-bass. Afterwards, at Riga Dome Choir School we were the first class of the jazz department to graduate. I studied bass guitar there. Afterwards, I studied playing jazz double bass at the Latvian Academy of Music and participated in different projects. I played in the Latvian Blues Band for some five years. Now I perform with different jazz bands, some projects last longer, some – not so long. Time after time, I write music also for theatre.
Which do you prefer – bass guitar or double bass?
Reinis: Both. I do not distinguish between them, because each of them gives something different. I play bass guitar in this project. I like to compose also for guitar and piano. In some pieces I play the guitar as well.
Rūdolfs: I am a graduate of jazz departments of Riga Dome Choir School and Latvian Academy of Music. I have played drums since the age of 13 and I have been lucky to perform with some excellent vocalists, like Daumants Kalniņš, Kristīne Prauliņa, Dons. It is a great honour, because I consider these vocalists to be really strong musicians. I am glad that they want exactly me to be their drummer.
Is it true that in a band, the drummer is the main component, the heart of the band?
Rūdolfs: Largely, yes. Not in an arrogant way – but many things depend on me.
Reinis: A drummer can make the band sound better or worse. He is the artist, who can determine the most important factors.
All of you together represent the new generation of Latvian jazz. Do you like this designation?
Kristīne: My ears hurt from this, what kind of a jazz singer am I? I feel myself more as an enthusiast of this music; I just like it a lot. But these guys really belong to this generation.
Should people come to your Showcase concert with certain expectations or should they have a complete silence in their heads?
Reinis: They should come with open hearts!
Kristīne: Yes, that would be the most important thing.
Rūdolfs: And love!
Tickets to Rigas Ritmi Festival 2015 Showcase are available at all “Biļešu Serviss” box offices and on-line www.bilesuserviss.lv.