What Music is Popular in Lithuania? | True Lithuania
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Music in Lithuania: bands, genres, radio stations, festivals

Lithuanian music scene is quite neatly divided into so-called "pop music" and "alternative music".

Lithuanian pop music

Popmusic is the more popular one, but mocked by the fans of alternative latter for its lame lyrics, little musical value and recorded performances. Typically the run-off-a-mill bands of pretty blonde girls made famous by various reality TV shows or professional producing companies or, are ones made fun of the most.

Nevertheless, these ephemeral bands often not lasting any more than some 6 years are only one side of Lithuania's pop music. On the other side are well-known singers with their decades-spanning careers. Called "estrada singers", the top veteran stars are the late Stasys Povilaitis and Edmundas Kučinskas (both loved by older people). When deceased, the top estrada singers may even have monuments built for them.

There is also a "middle ground" of singers who augment their pop music careers by acting in musicals or performing more serious songs. Arguably the most famous such performer is Marijus Mikutavičius who somehow always manages to unite the nation with his anthems for basketball, happiness, and other positive things. The divides between followers of various genres sometimes disappear while listening to his "Trys milijonai" song created for 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, but as popular today as it was a decade ago.

Marijus Mikutavičius (center), Mantas Jankavičius and Mia in a Eurobasket 2011 anthem videoclip.

The radio stations play primarily pop music. The best radio stations to hear Lithuanian pop music are "Pūkas" and "Lietus" (the first programs solely this genre whereas the later also plays foreign music). Additionally, Lithuanian pop music may be heard in live performances at various gigs and cafes in Palanga resort at summer.

While there are various local music awards Eurovision song contest is the true centerpoint of Lithuanian pop music year and generates the most publicity. Many musicians enter the qualification stage for public relations alone. The contest itself has a sport-like following where the Lithuanian band is supported like some national team. Lithuanians never won the contest, however (unlike Latvians and Estonians). The expansion of the contest makes it harder for nations without millions-strong diaspora communities to win.

Lithuania has a constant stream of its own popular musical TV contests,however, eagerly joined by most pop singers to boost their careers.

While the top Lithuanian music performers may sometimes give grandiose gigs in the sold-out arenas, usually the Lithuanian market is too small for that. Therefore, anybody outside the top-of-the-top plays in smaller venues with just several hundred fans attending. Another opportunity to see the Lithuanian stars are various city and town festivals or the official celebrations of "modern" public holidays (e.g. the independence day) that often include free gigs by some celebrities in the main squares.

Vaidas Baumila, one of the stars made famous by reality TV, performs during the key evening gig of the annual Klaipėda city festival (Sea Festival). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian "alternative music"

The Lithuanian alternative music covers many genres. A fan usually follows one or more genres, although (s)he may still prefer other genres over pop music. As its audience is smaller and more divided, "Alternative music" gigs generally take place in smaller venues than those of the leading pop music.

One exception is the immensely popular summer festivals, each taking up a weekend somewhere far from the cities. These festivals are usually dedicated to particular genres, e.g. metal, gothic, rock or electronic, and include both local and foreign music of these genres. They take place either in cities or certain country areas. Some famous annual festivals: “Mėnuo juodaragis“ (neo-folk / neo-pagan), “Galapagai“ (rock), “Visagino kantri” (country music, always held in Visaginas), “Tamsta muzika“ (various genres, primarily alternative), "Yaga" (raggae, dub, electric), "Akacijų alėja" (sung poetry).

Pagan metal band Obtest performs for a small audience in Vilnius Book Fair. Like a part of alternative bands, it combines ethnic heritage ideas with Western genres. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

A significant portion of Lithuania’s alternative musicians follows the so-called sung poetry (dainuojamoji poezija) genre. This usually involves a single musician singing solo with a single instrument. As in poetry, it is the lyrics that are most important rather than the melody (therefore sung poetry is difficult to understand for someone who does not speak Lithuanian).

A sculpture of Vytautas Kernagis (1951-2008) in Nida. He is sometimes credited as the founder of the sung poetry popularity by using it in the 1980s to record songs mildly satirizing the Soviet regime. His own popularity is comparable to that of key estrada singers. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Another style enjoying greater popularity in Lithuania than elsewhere is the neo-folk that combines centuries-old songs with modern musical motives (rock, metal, etc.).

Mėnuo Juodaragis summer festival, dedicated to neo-folk and the related genres. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Folk and classical music

Real folk music is seen to be a major part of Lithuanian culture, kept alive by mostly amateur bands and choirs. Quadriennial UNESCO-inscribed state-funded festivals Dainų šventė (Song festival) are the ultimate folksong choir experience, but annual "Ant rubežiaus" (Šiauliai), "Skamba skamba kankliai" (Vilnius) are more frequent and varied alternatives. Folk music is in a way detached from both pop music and alternative music and is more commonly enjoyed by older people. Before 20th century every folk song was meant to be sung doing a different task, polyphonic "sutartinės" being the most famous.

A band in folk costumes performs in Vilnius during the traditional Skamba skamba kankliai folk music festival in late May. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Classical music and opera, another separate category, is also preferred primarily by mature population and is found in opera theaters, philharmonias, and musical theaters, usually performed in the original language. Regarded as "the most intellectual music", classical music bands are commonly largely funded by the state.

Foreign music in Lithuania

While the above mentioned two radio stations ("Pūkas" and "Lietus") play Lithuanian music, this is rather an exception than a rule. Most radio stations (e.g. "Radiocentras", "M-1") play solely or primarily English music. These are the same hits you would hear anywhere in the Western world. Since late 1990s world-famous bands visit Lithuania on their world tours. Many Lithuanians do not listen to Lithuanian music altogether, opting for the Western one instead.

The third category of music popular in Lithuania is also non-local, but neither it is music you would hear in the West. This is Russian music. It is mostly listened to by ethnic Russians, but also enjoyed by a part of the non-Russian working class. Less impressively it continues to be popular among criminals and thugs. You are much more likely to hear a Russian song in Vilnius public transport eagerly listened by the drivers than either Lithuanian or Western one. Entire radio stations are dedicated to them. "Russkoe Radio" plays solely Russian pop music (their hosts also speak Russian) whereas "A2" plays a mix of Russian and Lithuanian pop music and employs Lithuanian-speaking hosts. Most of the Russian music is imported from Russia rather than locally created.

See also: Popular Lithuanian songs: old and new

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Lithuanian folk songs, music and dances

Lithuania is famous for its archaic folk songs, a UNESCO world heritage and a center-point of many Lithuanian cultural festivals and events.

Archaic Lithuanian folk songs and musical instruments

Before the modern era swept through villages Lithuanians used to sing at most occasions. Work songs would lead them through daily tasks. With the exception of children songs, every song was reserved for some particular task or lifetime event (e.g. sowing, harvest, wedding, departing for war). The choice of traditional musical instruments also depended on the reason for singing.

The lyrics of old (pre-19th century) Lithuanian folk songs are full of diminutives. Some songs are multipart and known as sutartinės. Sung by two to four persons these have few counterparts in Europe, they are listed as UNESCO World Heritage.

Hereunder is an example of sutartinė, typically sung by four women in two pairs. "Doliya" is a kind of meaningless word used to create rhyme/rhythm in old Lithuanian folk songs (some think they may have had a meaning in the past which is now lost). As the English language lacks diminutives the word "Little" is used to replace them.

Žvingia žirgas
Folk (author unknown)

Žvingia žirgas, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Až vartelių, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Aisim sesyt, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Vartų kelce, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Žirgą laisce, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
-Tu žirgeli, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Bėrukėli, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Kur palikai, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Mūsų brolalį, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
-Jūs brolalis, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Gale lauko, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Aukštininkas, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Žvaigždes skaita, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Vėjus gauda, dolija, (Dolijute, dolija.)
Dolijute, dolija.

The horse is neighing
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The horse is neighing, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
Beyond the little gate, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
Little sister we go, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
To open the gate, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
To let the horse in, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
"You little horse, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
Little bay horse, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
Where have you have left, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
Our little brother, doliya?" (little doliya, doliya)
"Your little brother, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
Is at the end of the field, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
On his back, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
Is counting the stars, doliya (little doliya, doliya)
Is catching the winds, doliya" (little doliya, doliya)
Little doliya, doliya.

The most famous Lithuanian traditional musical instruments are skrabalai (percussion instrument), skudučiai (wind instrument) and kanklės (string instrument), with kanklės regarded to have a deeper spiritual importance. Traditionally only a single (or one type) instrument would be used to accompany a song, but "traditional instrument orchestras" have been established in the 20th century, modernizing the once-archaic Lithuanian instruments to expand their accuracy and possibilities.

In addition to the main Lithuanian instruments there used to be many reserved for special occasions or jobs which are now obsolete (e.g. džingulis is a large jingling rod for calling villagers into a wedding) .

Traditional Lithuanian instruments at the Kaunas folk instrument museum (left-to-right): skrabalai, skudučiai, kanklės, džingulis. Skudučiai are played by a band of people each taking some of the pipes; top skudučiai are amateur-made while the bottom ones are a modern professional version. 20th-century kanklės shown here are decorated in patriotic motifs as is now popular. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Many folk songs have been traditionally performed without instruments. Raudos (Weeps) are improvised a capella laments for either funeral or wedding as both transitions into new life were considered to be worth weeping for.

Hereunder is an example of a rauda sung during the funeral of a son. The body is typically addressed as if he would be alive.

©Juozas Kazlauskas

Sūneli mano brangus,
Sūneli obuolėli
Tai kų tu sugalvojai,
Kų tu sumislinai
Sav jaunose dienelėse?
Sūneli kvietkeli,
Va cia stovi
Tavo tėveliai
Ir mažos dukrytės
Nori jos pa.. pakalbėti.
Sūneli brangusai, kelkis,
Pakalbėke meiliais žodeliais,
Sūneli kvietkeli.

Funerary lament for a dead son
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis

My dear little son,
Little son - little apple,
What have you thought of,
What have you decided,
In your young days?
Little son - little flower,
Here are standing
Your parents
And small little daughters
They want to... to talk.
Dear little son, wake up,
Talk in lovely little words,
Little son - little flower.

Performing folk music in traditional circumstances died out in late 19th to mid 20th centuries (when modern technologies and urbanization altered the lifestyle) but it is still popular among various folk bands. However, the true meaning of the older folk songs may be hard to discern to a modern person.

19th-20th-century Lithuanian folk songs

Today even more popular than the archaic songs are 19th-20th-century rural-themed songs performed with accordions (rather than the traditional instruments). Some towns and villages have their own bands called Kaimo kapelija which perform such songs. Not all of them are literally folk songs as many have non-anonymous authors but they are still a local tradition.

Vėl gegužio žiedai
©Jungėnų kaimo kapela (Jungėnai village band)

Vėl gegužio žiedai
Išpuošė pievas ir klonius,
Ir laukus, ir miškus, ir sodybas senas...
Gimtas sodžiau, sakyki, kodėl aš tavęs taip ilgiuosi?
Ir kodėl aš tave taip myliu? (x2)

Vien gal dėl to,
Kad čia mažas bėgiojau
Ir prie tyro šaltinio žaidžiau su draugais,
Kad savo pirmąją meilę kaip nuostabų rožės žiedelį
Gimto kaimo pirkelėj radau... (x2)

Čia prabėgo linksmai
Jaunystė kaip perlas manoji
Čia skambėjo daina tartum vyturio aidas laukuos
Prisiminus ankstyvą saulėtą pavasario rytą
Šios dainos aš kas dieną ilgiuos. (x2)

Ten palaukėj beržų
Virpa stygos smuikelio iš lėto,
Jo akordų giesmė – kaip senolių graudi aimana.
Gimto kaimo lyg draugo mana širdimi numylėto
Neužmiršiu aš jo niekada. (x2)

Again the blossoms of May
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Again the blossoms of May
Have decorated the meadows and valleys
And fields and forests and old farmsteads...
My native farm, tell me why I long for you so much?
And why I love you like this? (x2)

Perhaps it's only because
I was bustling here when I was small
And at the pure stream, I played with my friends.
Because I found my first love like an adorable rosebud
In a small hut of the native village... (x2)

Here joyfully passed
My youth - as a pearl.
A song resounded as an echo of lark over fields
Whenever I remember the early sunny spring morning
I long for that song every day. (x2)

There near the birches
Violin strings slowly tremble
The hymn of its notes is like forefathers' lament.
Like a friend who I love with all my heart
I will never ever forget the native village. (x2)

Refrain-free romances with sad lyrics on love, death and war also became popular in the 19th century, however, their prevalence never reached that their contemporaries enjoyed in Russia. A "romance evening" in Vilnius or Klaipėda, therefore, is likely to be an ethnic minority event of Russian romances rather than a Lithuanian one.

The mass expulsion of Lithuanians by Soviets in 1940s-1950s woven the final carpet of Lithuanian folk music. Dehumanized and anonymous expellees would join in creating songs on their tragedy. Meanwhile, in Lithuania itself, even more new anonymous songs were written by partisans who fought against the Soviet regime. They were defeated so these final types of folk music are permeated with sadness and doom and (at best) the glory of graceful death.

Jei ne auksinės vasaros
Partisan/expellee folk romance

Jei ne auksinės vasaros,
Ne mėlynos vosilkos,
Nebūtum mes atėję čia,
Kur slenka dienos pilkos.

Taip tyliai slenka vasaros,
Pražydę gėlės vysta.
Mes tyliai šluostom ašaras,
Palaidoję jaunystę.

Paliksime tas kryžkeles
Ir viską, ką turėjom -
Jaunystę, juoką, ašaras
Ir tą, kurią mylėjom.

Išeisiu vieną vakarą
Ir jau daugiau negrįšiu.
Žydės vosilkos mėlynai,
Bet jų nebematysiu.

If not for the golden summers
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis

If not for the golden summers,
If not for the blue cornflowers
We wouldn't have ended up here
Where the days pass by in grey.

So silently the summers crawl,
The blooming flowers wilt away.
Silently we wipe our tears
After burying our youth.

We will leave these crossroads
And everything we had -
The youth, the laughter, the tears
And the ones we loved.

I will depart one evening
And won't ever come back.
The cornflowers will blossom in blue
But I won't see them again.

Where to hear Lithuanian folk music?

Today the most massive Lithuanian folk music events are UNESCO-inscribed Song Festivals (Dainų šventė) which take place in the Baltics regularly since the 19th century (approximately every four years in Lithuania). There are also smaller annual events such as the Skamba Skamba Kankliai every May in Vilnius, Atataria lamzdžiai in Kaunas while the Kaimo kapelijos style is represented in Ant Rubežiaus at Šiauliai (June).

A kaimo kapela (village band) performs for dancing crowd during Ant Rubežiaus festival in Šiauliai. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Folk songs are considered an important representation of Lithuanian culture and, as such, they are performed in various international events. In Lithuanian communities abroad the Lithuanian folk song/dance tradition tends to outlive even the Lithuanian language. Folk songs are nearly always performed in folk costumes (which are otherwise no longer used in Lithuania).

In 2000s, it became fashionable to incorporate folk elements into new songs, merging them with rock, pop, metal or sung poetry. However, this neo-folk should not be taken for an authentic folk music. Mėnuo Juodaragis annual festival is somewhat dedicated to such neo-folk.

Lithuanian folk dances

Today folk dances usually go hand in hand with folk songs and are performed on stage. But originally they would include entire communities. Many dances have slower and faster parts and are danced in circles which transform into lines, "snakes" and other formations as the dance progresses, or may even temporarily "disintegrate" into pairs. The dancers' actions may be so elaborate that some Lithuanian dances are also known as "games".

A Lithuanian circle dance/game. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Those folk dances that are always danced in pairs are mostly of foreign origin (e.g. Polish polka).

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Popular Lithuanian Songs (Old and New)

While today Lithuanian music is increasing internationalized it still has its own peculiarities. Moreover, many of the songs still played on the radio are some years or several decades old, having witnessed the turbulent history.

Music has always been important to Lithuanians. In pre-modern times they had special songs for every daily task or lifetime event. In the 20th century, both independence movements (1918 and 1990) had their own strong musical backings.

This article tells the Lithuanian musical history with the most influential songs of various periods.

See also: Lithuanian folk songs.

Lithuanian National Revival songs (1870-1918)

In the late 19th century Lithuanian language ceased to be regarded as the language of peasants alone. Poets such as priest Maironis wrote poetry in Lithuanian, most of it with patriotic words. The importance of Maironis work to Lithuanian history is difficult to overstate and some of his famous poems became songs such as "Oi neverk matušėle" ("Oh don't cry, beloved mother"). The popularity of these songs continued and never became dated as the Lithuanian nation continued struggles for its existence under the Soviet occupation.

Oi neverk, matušėle
©Maironis (Jonas Mačiulis)

Oi neverk, matušėle, kad jaunas sūnus
Eis ginti brangiosios tėvynės!
Kad pavirtęs kaip ąžuolas girių puikus
Lauks teismo dienos paskutinės.
Kad pavirtęs kaip ąžuolas girių puikus
Lauks teismo dienos paskutinės.

Taip nelaužyk sau rankų, kaip beržo šakas
Kad laužo užrūstintas vėjas;
Tau dar liko sūnų; kas tėvynę praras,
Antros neišmels apgailėjęs.
Tau dar liko sūnų; kas tėvynę praras,
Antros neišmels apgailėjęs.

Ten už upių plačių žiba mūsų pulkai:
Jie mylimą Lietuvą gina;
Kam nusviro galva, tam Dangaus angelai
Vainiką iš diemantų pina.
Kam nusviro galva, tam Dangaus angelai
Vainiką iš diemantų pina.

Daugel krito sūnų kaip tų lapų rudens:
Baltveidės oi verks, nes mylėjo!
Bet nei bus, nei tekės Nemune tiek vandens,
Kiek priešų ten kraujo tekėjo.
Bet nei bus, nei tekės Nemune tiek vandens,
Kiek priešų ten kraujo tekėjo.

Vedė Vytautas ten didžiavyrių pulkus
Ir priešų sulaužė puikybę:
Už devynias mares, už tamsiuosius miškus
Išvarė kryžiuočių galybę.
Už devynias mares, už tamsiuosius miškus
Išvarė kryžiuočių galybę.

Saulė leidos raudona ant Vilniaus kapų,
Kai duobę kareiviai ten kasė,
Ir paguldė daug brolių greta milžinų,
O Viešpats jų priglaudė dvasią.
Ir paguldė daug brolių greta milžinų,
O Viešpats jų priglaudė dvasią.

O neverk, matušėle, kad jaunas sūnus
Eis ginti brangiausios tėvynės!
Kad pavirtęs kaip ąžuolas girių puikus
Lauks teismo dienos paskutinės!
Kad pavirtęs kaip ąžuolas girių puikus
Lauks teismo dienos paskutinės!

Oh, don't cry, beloved mother
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis

Oh, don't cry, beloved mother, that young son
Will go to defend dearest fatherland
That collapsed as a great oak tree of lush forests
He will await for the final day of justice
That collapsed as a great oak tree of lush forests
He will await for the final day of justice.

Don't break your arms in the way birch branches
Are broken by furious winds
You still have sons left; who will lose his homeland
Won't pray out a second one
You still have sons left; who will lose his homeland
Won't pray out a second one.

There beyond wide rivers our legions are shining
They are defending beloved Lithuania
Who's head bends down, for him the angels of Heaven
Are making a laurel of diamonds
Who's head bends down, for him the angels of Heaven
Are making a laurel of diamonds.

Many sons have fallen as those Autumn leafs
White-faced girls will so cry, because they have loved
But there won't be nor flow in the Nemunas as much water
As blood of enemies there had flown
But there won't be nor flow in the Nemunas as much water
As blood of enemies there had flown.

Vytautas was leading there the legions of heroes
And broken the arrogance of enemies
In the name of Nine Seas, in the name of Dark Forests
He forced the mightiness of crusaders away
In the name of Nine Seas, in the name of Dark Forests
He forced the mightiness of crusaders away.

The red sun was setting onto the graves of Vilnius
While soldiers were digging a pit there
And they laid many brothers at the side of giants
And the Almighty embraced their soul
And they laid many brothers at the side of giants
And the Almighty embraced their soul.

Oh, don't cry, beloved mother, that young son
Will go to defend dearest fatherland
That collapsed as a great oak tree of lush forests
He will await for the final day of justice
That collapsed as a great oak tree of lush forests
He will await for the final day of justice.

Interwar Lithuanian songs (1918-1940)

The roots of Lithuanian pop music lie in the interwar period and such people as the traveling singer Danielius Dolskis who settled down in Kaunas. He used to write Lithuanian lyrics for popular world tunes and perform in upscale restaurants. His songs are still popular, having been recorded and re-recorded by many different musicians ever since.

"Palangos jūroj" ("In the sea of Palanga") song is one of the most popular Dolskis songs. The lyrics also signifies the urbanization-inspired change in lifestyle: Palanga is a popular resort town and the 1920s generation was among the first ones that had a significant number of people able to have a seaside holiday.

Palangos jūroj
©Danielius Dolskis

Palangos jūroj nuskendo mano meilė,
Ir šaltos bangos jos neatiduos.
Svaiginantis man vėjo garsas girdis,
Bet mano sielos jis negal paguost.

O viltis mane dar šaukia,
Mano siela kažko laukia.
Palangos jūroj nuskendo mano meilė,
Ir šaltos bangos jos neatiduos.

In the sea of Palanga
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis

In the sea of Palanga my love had drowned
And the cold waves will not return it.
A drowsing sound of the wind I hear
But it could not soothe my soul.

Yet the hope is still calling me
My soul is waiting for something.
In the sea of Palanga my love had drowned
And the cold waves will not return it.

While some topics were temporary in the popular music "love" theme always continued. Although even it followed the zeitgeist: forced to be socially conservative under the Soviet occupation it was to become extremely liberal in the 1990s.

Songs of the Soviet occupation era (1940-1990)

Like other arts under the Soviet occupation, music had to serve the regime. This does not mean that all popular music praised the Party or the Communism (there were military songs for that, many of them Russian). However, all of it had to adhere to the Soviet conservative yet anti-religious morals to survive censorship. "There is no sex in the Soviet Union" had been a popular saying.

The song we choose as an example for the era - "Senieji Vilniaus stogai" ("The old roofs of Vilnius") - is still popular. Its lyrics show how it was possible to discretely incorporate praise for Soviet programs. In this case, the campaign of building new functionalist microdistricts is praised as the topic of the song swiftly moves from the "Old roofs" to the "New roofs" of Vilnius.

Senieji Vilniaus stogai
©Jonas Mašanauskas

Senieji Vilniaus stogai,
Pražilę samana žalia,
Einu lyg paukštis lengvai
Sena siaurąja gatvele.

Stogai senieji, kai jus tik pamatau,
Aš pajaunėju ir tyliai pasakau:
„Aš jaunas, aš jaunas, aš jaunas“.

Senieji Vilniaus stogai,
Nušviesti ryto spindulių,
Aušra nušvinta rausvai
Ir aš miegoti negaliu.

Nešuosi mintį, Vilniau, tais rytais
Tave dabinti vis naujais stogais,
Dabinti, dabinti, dabinti.

Naujieji Vilniaus stogai,
Užgimę vidury dienos,
Balkonai, šviesūs langai
Nerimsta prašosi dainos.

Ir aš dainuoju pilna krūtine,
Jaunasis Vilniau, tu suprask mane,
Aš jaunas, tu jaunas, aš jaunas.
Tu mano Vilniau jaunas.

The old roofs of Vilnius
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis

The old roofs of Vilnius
Turned gray by the green moss
I am walking easily as a bird
In an old little street

Old roofs, whenever I see you
I become younger and silently say:
"I'm young, I'm young, I'm young".

Old roofs of Vilnius
Brightened by morning rays
The dawn comes red
And I could not fall asleep.

I am having a will, oh Vilnius, in those mornings
To decorate you with new roofs
Decorate, decorate, decorate...

New roofs of Vilnius
Born in a midday -
Balconies and bright windows
Relentlessly ask for a song.

And I sing with a full bosom
Young Vilnius, please understand me.
I am young, you are young, I am young.
My Vilnius, you are young.

In the Soviet Union, the government commonly required popular singers to also sing in Russian. Seeing the brutality of the Soviet Russian occupation few Lithuanians agreed to this, however, sacrificing the possibility of the Soviet Union-wide career.

In the end of the Soviet era a new form of protest was ideologically-overcharged songs that were effectively parodies of themselves (but the censors had no pretext to ban them). One of the masters of such parody was sung poetry author Vytautas Kernagis. The song goes in-line with a major Soviet campaign on eradicating Colorado potato beetle which even included rewarding children who captured the beetles for extermination.

Kolorado vabalai
©Vytautas Kernagis, lyrics ©Juozas Erlickas

Ant aukšto kranto upės mėlyno
Malonu pasvajoti ir išgerti
Atėję kolūkiečiai padainuos
Papasakos apie šių metų derlių
Apie brigadinės rangos metodą
Papasakos brigadininkas Rapolas
Ir apie naują bulvių veislę – tokią,
Kuri nebijo Kolorado vabalo
Žilvičiai upės abiejuos krantuos
Klausydami kuždėsis apie laimę
Akordeonu pirmininkas gros
Pritardamas savos kūrybos dainai

Suplėšysim į gabalus
Tuos kolorado vabalus
Ir bulvės vėl žydės
Ir mylimam kolūkyje
Pakėlę žemės ūkį mes
Dainuosim iš širdies

Klajos dangum žvaigždė ir suoks lakštingala
Atsispindės mėnulis butely
Mirgės ant seno ilgo geležinkelio
Mažyčiais žiburėliais traukinys
Ir aš į kolūkio laukus išėjęs
Paimsiu arklį, lyrą ir melžėją
Dainuoja ji, dainuoju aš su ja
Ir traktorius dainuoja danguje


Colorado potato beetles
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis

On a high blue river bank
It is nice to dream and drink
Collective farm workers will come and sing
And tell about this year's harvest.
Brigade commander Rapolas will tell
About the method of brigade preparation
And about a new breed of potatoes
Immune to Colorado potato beetles.
The willows on both river banks
Will silently speak of joy
The chairman of the collective farm will play accordion
To accompany his own song.

We will tear apart
Those Colorado potato beetles
And the potatoes will bloom again
And in the beloved collective farm
We will improve the agriculture
And sing at heart.

A star will travel in the sky, a nightingale will sing
And the moon will be reflected in a bottle.
On the old long railway
A train will shine in small lights.
I will go to the collective farm fields
Together with a horse, a lyre, and a milkwoman
She is singing, I am singing together
While the tractor is singing in the sky.


Under the Soviet rule singers who were believed to be "anti-system" were called bards after the Celtic poets. Today in Lithuania a bard means a sung poetry singer. Perhaps the popularity of Vytautas Kernagis (who was a bard in both senses) changed the word's meaning and popularized the sung poetry genre.

The legal "anti-system" music had to be tame enough to cheat the censors, so most people who never lived under a totalitarian regime would probably not consider it anti-system at all, expecting direct criticism rather than merely a bit of subtle irony in a truly "anti-system" art.

There were, however, more openly dissenting songs created by the people in secret. They were patriotic and pro-independence. Written by political prisoners, guerillas and the persecuted Lithuanian majority these songs were banned in the Soviet Union, passed by the word of mouth alone. Many are anonymous and thus considered folk music.

Lithuanian songs for freedom (1987-1994)

During late 1980s Lithuanians started to dare to tell what they were thinking for decades - that the Soviet occupation must end. Songs on the censored topics (history, religion, freedom) became more and more open even if that meant KGB interrogations of some singers.

The music was so important in raising people's morale that the entire independence of the Baltic States which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union is sometimes named "The Singing Revolution".

Among the most daring singers of the era was Arvydas Vilčinskas who symbolically yet openly sung about the exiles, mass murders, nationalization, forced state atheism and other things the Lithuanian nation suffered under the Soviet occupation. His concerts used to attract full stadiums and many of his songs are still well known.

Verkia Dievas medinis
©Arvydas Vilčinskas

Stovi tėvo dvareliai tušti,
Vakar buvo visi išvežti.
Liko žymės gyvų dar bėdų,
Skelia širdį – graudu, apmaudu.

Verkia dievas medinis kieme,
Nebėra čia mums vietos, - eime.
Pasilikt čia ilgiau nieks neleis,
Eisim savo keleliais, keliais

Mūsų niekas daugiau čia nekvies
Ir nepils mums auksinio alaus.
Rankoj stiklas daugiau nežibės
Ir tų žodžių jau nieks nekalbės.


Liko tuščia, išplėšta namuos,
Nėr sesulės linksmos, nei mamos.
Nieks sutinkant neglaus prie širdies
Ir išleidžiant neverks, neliūdės.


A wooden God is crying
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis

The father's little manor is all empty,
Yesterday it was all carted away.
The marks of still-alive woes have remained
The heart is breaking, it's sad and awkward.

A wooden God is crying in the yard
No more place for us here - let's go.
No one will permit us to stay any longer
We'll continue on our paths, on our little roads.

No one will ever invite us here again,
No one will pour us gold-colored beer.
The glass won't shine in a hand
And those words will be spoken by no one.


It's so empty, so robbed inside home
There's no happy sister nor mother
No one will clasp us to bosom when greeting
No one will cry nor be sad when we leave.


This particular song is about the Soviet occupation of 1940. The first verse speaks of nationalization (when Soviets robbed away property from all Lithuanian classes - peasants to urban dwellers), the second verse symbolizes the destruction of Lithuanian traditions, the third verse tells of the physical Soviet genocide (the mother and sister are likely exiled or murdered) while the refrain describes the need to leave Lithuania as refugees (chosen by some 100 000 after World War 2).

The wooden God is Rūpintojėlis, a traditional Lithuanian wooden statue of sad Jesus, erected near village homes. Like many allegories in Vilčinskas's songs it has multiple meanings: beside the obvious one (a statue in the yard of a nationalized home) it laments the attacks on the religious and the fact that the nationalised home will remain empty and ransacked with the statue itself likely destroyed soon. The tune of the song is delusively happy and this is a signature of A. Vilčinskas. After suffering so much Lithuanians frequently adopted the "laughter through tears" stance towards sad events.

In addition to such ballads there was rock music that offered an even bolder position. 1987-1989 saw annual "Rock march" tours across Lithuania. Rock music on itself was something politically incorrect in the Soviet Union, so the fact that concerts took place at all was already seen as a victory in 1987. But in 1988-1989 the rock bands were more and more daring to transfer their pro-independence opinion into lyrics, culminating in texts like "Lietuvos valstybė" by Antis, aimed at leftist Western European politicians who were ready to disregard the Lithuanian tragedy in order to preserve stability of the Soviet Union:

Lietuvos valstybė

Ei, tu, vakarų pilieti,
Tarybų Sąjunga tau taip įdomi
Ei, tu, išprusęs užsienieti,
Čia dar ne Rusija, Rusija toli

Ei, tu, kvapnusis europieti,
Париж – Москва draugystės traukiny
Sakai, žemėlapyje net nepažymėta
Nei Estija, nei Latvija, nei Lietuva

Ei, tu, šaunusis demokrate,
Ką apie mūsų gyvenimą žinai?
Ei, tu, naivus aristokrate,
Kaip vėl tave lengvai apgavo Rytai

Ei, tu, tolimas kaimyne,
Trys šimtai mylių ir pasaulio pabaiga
Ei, tu, artimas vaikine,
Sustok, pažvelk pro langą

Lietuvos valstybė – pabandyk ištarti
Lietuvos valstybė – Baltijos aušra
Lietuvos valstybė – mirti ar gyventi
Lietuvos valstybė – pasaulio Lietuva

Ei, jūs, Europos vegetarai,
Gardus pyragas Pabaltijo tautų
Ei, jūs, aukšti parlamentarai,
Šalin žemėlapius suteptus krauju

Ei, jūs, apsukrūs diplomatai,
Stipri pažemintų tautų valia
Ei, jūs, Perkūno žodis sako
Nuo šiol tebūna

Lietuvos valstybė – pabandyk ištarti
Lietuvos valstybė – Baltijos aušra
Lietuvos valstybė – mirti ar gyventi
Lietuvos valstybė – pasaulio Lietuva

Independent State of Lithuania
English translation ©Augustinas Žemaitis

Hey you, a Western citizen,
Soviet Union interests you so much,
Hey you, an educated foreigner,
This is no Russia, Russia is far away.

Hey you, a perfumed European
In a Parizh–Moskva friendship train,
You claim no maps even show
Neither Estonia, nor Latvia, nor Lithuania?

Hey you, a great democrat,
What do you know about our life?
Hey you, a naive aristocrat,
How easily the East have cheated you again.

Hey you, a far-away neighbor,
You think the world ends beyond 300 miles?
Hey you, a nearby boy,
Stop and look through a window.

Independent State of Lithuania - try to spell it.
Independent State of Lithuania - the Baltic dawn.
Independent State of Lithuania - to die or to live.
Independent State of Lithuania - Lithuania in the world.

Hey you, European vegetarians,
Here's a nice pie of Baltic nations.
Hey you, important members of parliaments,
Do away with blood-soaked maps.

Hey you, fast-thinking diplomats,
The willpower of humiliated nations is strong.
Hey you, Perkūnas tells you
From now on let it be:

Independent State of Lithuania - try to spell it.
Independent State of Lithuania - the Baltic dawn.
Independent State of Lithuania - to die or to live.
Independent State of Lithuania - Lithuania in the world.

Lithuanian songs of the libertarian 1990s

The 1990 independence and its subsequent successful defense from Russian aggression meant that the patriotic goals were successfully met. The initial wave of patriotically, religiously and historically themed music subsided.

However, the restored freedom introduced other once-censored themes as well: business, sex, crime. Local bands attempted to emulate previously non-existent Western styles but a lack of global ties meant that such imitations would just make new fusion styles instead.

Among the emulated styles of 1990s was hip hop and SEL was one of its most popular local bands. The following is their song "Išsivaduok nuo kontrolės" ("Liberate yourself from control"):

Išsivaduok nuo kontrolės

Paklausyk manęs
Galbūt šita daina tave į protą atves
Aš žinau – nesu tau nei tėvas nei Dievas
Bet negalvok kad mano patarimas „lėvas“
Pripažink luk tu dažnai fantazuoji
Apie prabangą aprūpintą rytojų
Bet laimė ir turtai iš dangaus nenukris
Jei tu sėdėsi ir nieko nebedarysi
Tu pilnai pajėgus pradėt savo gyvenimą
Nejau tėvų rūpestis tavęs nežemina
Maitina jie tave aprengia ir apauna
Ir už tai paklusnų sūnų gaunaIšsivaduok nuo materialines priklausomybės
Tapk savarankiška laisva asmenybe
Atsikratyk tau primestos sūnelio rolės
Ir išsivaduok nuo kontrolės
Išsivaduok nuo kontrolės
Išsivaduok nuo kontrolės.

Palikai tėvų namus
Suktą darbą radai
Ir iš kart po boso koja patekai
Jo nurodymus tau perduoda jauna sekretorė
Kur blaško tave nes tu jos nori
Prisipažink juk tu slaptai fantazuoji
Apie tai kaip tavo bosas pakrato kojas
Kaip iš po jo kontrolės tu išsivaduoji
Atsisėdi į jo kėdę ir kitus kontroliuoji
Bet pamąstyk juk tu pakankamai užsidirbai
Kad pradėtum savo nepriklausomą biznį
Juk žinai – tam kuris tvirtai stovi ant kojų
Jokios problemos neegzistuoja

Išsivaduok nuo materialines priklausomybės
Tapk savarankiška laisva asmenybe
Atsikratyk tau primestos pavaldinio rolės
Ir išsivaduok nuo kontrolės
Išsivaduok nuo kontrolės
Išsivaduok nuo kontrolės.

Tu pasiekei tai apie ką svajojai
Kai tu su tėvais gyvenai ir ateities bijojai
Naujam biznį tu buvai pionierius
Na o dabar tapai suktas milijonierius
Dabar atrodo neturėtų tavęs nieks kontroliuoti
Tu laisvas žmogus gali durnių volioti
Deja pasaulis visai kitaip galvoja
Tavo veiklą įstatymai kontroliuoka
Tau draudžia be vizos palikti valstybę
Pakeisti savo pilietybę
Tave varžo nusistovėjusios dogmos
Debilų sugalvotos beprasmiškos normos

Išsivaduok nuo materialinės priklausomybės
Tapk savarankiška laisva asmenybe
Atsikratyk tau primestos piliečio rolės
Ir išsivaduok nuo kontrolės
Išsivaduok nuo kontrolės
Išsivaduok nuo kontrolės.

Liberate yourself from control

Don't pass by.
Listen to me.
Perhaps this song will bring you to your mind.
I know I am neither your father nor God
But don't think that my advice is wrong.
Confirm it - you frequently dream
About luxury and a sufficient future.
But neither success nor riches will fall out of sky
If you will sit and do nothing.
You are capable of starting your own life -
Doesn't the parental care humiliate you?
They feed you, they dress you and put on the shoes.
And in return, they get a subservient son.Liberate yourself from material dependency
Become a self-sufficient and free personality.
Drop that "little son" role forced upon you
And liberate yourself from control,
Liberate yourself from control,
Liberate yourself from control.

You had left the parents' home
You found a good job
And fallen under the boot of a boss.
His orders are passed through a young secretary
Who dispells your concentration as you want her
Confirm it - you frequently dream
That your boss dies
That you drop his control
That you sit in his seat and control the others.
But think about this - you have earned enough
To start your own independent business.
You know - for the one who is standing firmly
No problems exist.

Liberate yourself from material dependency
Become a self-sufficient and free personality.
Drop that "employee" role forced upon you
And liberate yourself from control,
Liberate yourself from control,
Liberate yourself from control.

You have reached what you sought for
When you lived with your parents and feared the future.
When your business was young you were a pioneer
And now you are a streetwise millionaire.
It would seem no one would control you now -
You are a free man, you can do whatever you wish;
Unfortunately, the world thinks differently,
Your actions are controlled by the laws.
They forbid you to leave the country visa-free
They forbid you to change nationality
You are controlled by old dogmas
Meaningless norms created by idiots.

Liberate yourself from material dependency
Become a self-sufficient and free personality.
Drop that "citizen" role forced upon you
And liberate yourself from control,
Liberate yourself from control,
Liberate yourself from control.

Belief in freedom of speech and free market was nearly universal and no government would have considered censorship. Some songs were anarchist and some racist, the new topics ranged from murders to transexuality. People eagerly listened to all the new ideas; discussions on them were generally prejudice-free, no thought was considered "too radical to even discuss". But this freedom of speech eroded with EU membership (~2004), leading even to calls for prosecution for some of the 1990s "politically incorrect" radio hits. An example of an era's controversial song may be "Atbėgo kariūnai" ("The soldiers quickly came") where the phrase "Atbėgo kariūnai, sušaudė Brazauską" ("The soldiers quickly came, they shot Brazauskas") is constantly on repeat (Brazauskas was a well-known Lithuanian political figure who hasn't been shot at in reality).

International era at Lithuanian music (2000 and later)

By 2000s the prime Lithuanian music became well-internationalized. Foreign style songs (e.g. metal, electro) were no longer naive adaptations but faithful copies.

Increasingly this "internationalized Lithuanian music" has foreign producers, English lyrics and little to distinguish it from startup musicians of London or New York. The hopes of Lithuanian musicians for careers in either East (Russia) or the West have been left largely unfulfilled, however.

Pop music remained more Lithuanian, although it is looked down upon by those who consider themselves to be more "hip".

Still, Lithuanians had some genres that had popularity far surpassing that of their contemporaries in West, among them sung poetry, neo-folk, and sports anthems.

Sports anthem "Trys milijonai" is likely the Lithuanian song performed outside Lithuania the most frequently. As an unofficial Lithuanian sports anthem it is performed in various international events where Lithuanians particiapte and the countries provide their songs to fill the pauses. It was created for 2000 Sydney olympics by "most wanted husband" Marijus Mikutavičius and inspired entire subgenre of "sport anthems" for different events, teams and sports but still has not been surpassed in popularity. Together with the neo-folk and sung poetry the sport anthems became an antithesis to internationalization in music.

Trys milijonai
Marijus Mikutavičius

Galbūt per daug ir per ilgai mes kariavom,
Galbūt per ilgai kartojom žodį "šlovė" (jė-jė)
Gal kartais per daug iš kitų reikalavom
Ir kartais per tyliai mes norėjom nugalėt.

Bet ir aš ten buvau,
Laimingas pergalės dainas dainavau,
Iškėlęs du pirštus į dangų laikiau,
Nes nugalėtojų jau niekas neteis,
Į juos akmens nepaleis.
Viskas buvo seniai -
Tu per ilgai per ramiai gyvenai,
Bet mano gyvas kraujas vėl atsigaus,
Kaip atsigauna žolė po gero lietaus.
Jė jė jė jė

Nesikankink dėl medalio,
Bet verta kovot ligi galo dėl savo garbės,
Pabandom iš naujo,
Nors esam pasauly tik trys milijonai,
Neliek savo kraujo dėl aukso,
Nes būsi legenda,
Kol nepraradom vilties,
Net jeigu ir vėl
Tik per klaidą netapom mes čempionais.

Ir aš tūkstantį kartų sakiau savo draugui:
"Mes geri, mes galingi, mes šiandien laimėsim",
Ir jis sakė "nė velnio",
Ir jis tūkstantį kartų buvo teisus, bet
Bet geriau negyvent negu visai netikėt (jė).
Nenuleidžiam galvos, net jeigu mums nesiseka
Devynis kartus iš eilės.
Juk mes ne iš tų,
Kur pralaimi dar nenugalėti.
Ir nebelieka jau baimės,
Kada viskas nurimo ir baigės,
Gali numirt iš nevilties ar iš laimės,
Net jei žaidi tik šachmatais arba dartais.
Juk būna, kad kartais
Lieki vienas be draugo
Ir jauti, jog kažkas tave saugo.
Mes per vieną naktį dideli užaugom
Ir mes galingi iš naujo (jaho, jaho, jaho).


Three million
Marijus Mikutavičius

Perhaps we fought for too long - and in too many wars
Perhaps too long we have been chanting "Glory"
Maybe at times we required too much from the others
And sometimes our will to win has been too silent

But I was there too
Happily singing the victory songs
Raising two fingers skywards -
As the victors will not be tried
No stones will be thrown at them.
Everything was so long ago
You have lived too calmly for too long
But my living blood will awaken again
As the grass awakens after a good rain.
Ye! Ye! Ye! Ye!

Don't torment yourself for a medal
But it is worth to fight to the end for your own honor
Let's try anew
Although we are only three million in the whole world
Don't spill your blood for the gold
As you will be a legend
As long as we haven't lost hope
Even if yet again
We are not champions by mistake alone.

For a thousand times I told my friend:
"We are great, we are powerful, we will win today"
And he said: "Hell no".
And he was right a thousand times but
It is better not to live rather than not to believe at all (Ye)
We don't bend our head down even if luck is not on our side
Nine times in a row
As we are not ones of those
Who lose before being defeated
And there is no more fear
After everything has calmed down and finished.
You may die of sadness or joy
Even if you play only chess or darts
Sometimes it happens
That you remain alone without friends
And still feel that someone guards you.
In a single night, we have grown big
And we are powerful all anew (yahoo, yahoo, yahoo).


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