Singing in Šķaune

About 20 years ago a young couple on an outing to the far reaches of Latgale [eastern Latvia] met and recorded a couple of local traditional musicians and singers. Ilmārs and Janta Mežs kept in touch with one of the musicians – a violin player – and this past summer Janta invited me and another friend along to Latgale to meet him and to see whether there were any other traditional singers and musicians left in that area. We focused on the town of Šķaune and its surrounding area, which is right on the Latvian border with Belarus, about 20 miles east of Dagda. First, though, we needed to apply for permits to enter the border area and then present them at the border patrol office in Šķaune, or else face searches and reprimands by patrolmen. Apparently a lot of smuggling goes on across the Belarusian border, which is also a frontier of the European Union and the newly expanded Schengen free-travel zone.

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