- Cloud Valley Music website -
- Andrew Cronshaw website -

- Andrew Cronshaw MySpace -

- Back to Reviews Introduction page -

Written in fRoots issue 329/330, 2010

Book + CD

The Baltic Psaltery And Playing Traditions In Latvia
(Book + CD)
Lauska ISBN 978-9984-39-959-1 (2009)

Valdis Muktupavels is the man when it comes to the kokle, the Latvian branch of the family of ‘Baltic psalteries’ (so-called to distinguish them from other forms of zither) that also includes the various forms of Finnish kantele, Estonian kannel and Lithuanian kankles. He’s been a key figure as player and researcher since the pre-independence times of the 1970s in the revival of the kokle - not the hefty ‘modernised’ and Sovietised versions but the traditional forms of Latgale in the east (with a ‘wing’ soundboard extension) and Kurzeme in the west (more like a Finnish small kantele).
      And this is the book, giving historical background, descriptions, tunings and playing techniques for these two main traditional types, and tunes, both in notation and in Valdis’s playing on a CD tucked into the back of the ringbound book.
      It’s concise and very clearly laid out, with plenty of photos and diagrams punctuating the parallel texts in Latvian and good English. Technique and notation laid out in books inevitably often appear more daunting than they really are, but Valdis does all he can to lessen that, and doesn’t set himself up as the ultimate authority but encourages the reader’s own freedom of exploration. The decline in traditional kokle playing almost to non-existence in the early to mid 20th century, with relatively little collecting done in the past from previous generations of players, means that the known traditional repertoire is only a few dozen tunes, so revival involves an expansion of that repertoire, drawing on song tunes, fiddle tunes and new composition.

© 2010 Andrew Cronshaw

You're welcome to quote from reviews on this site, but please credit the writer and fRoots.

fRoots -
The feature and review-packed UK-based monthly world roots music magazine in which these reviews were published, and by whose permission they're reproduced here.

It's not practical to give, and keep up to date, current contact details and sales sources for all the artists and labels in these reviews, but try Googling for them, and where possible buy direct from the artists.
CDRoots.com in the USA, run by Cliff Furnald, is a reliable and independent online retail source, with reviews, of many of the CDs in these reviews; it's connected to his excellent online magazine Rootsworld.com 

For more reviews click on the regions below

NORDIC        BALTIC        IBERIA (& islands)   



- Back to Reviews Introduction page -