Step Back in Time to Hear the Beautiful Sounds of a Baltic Lullaby

Lithuania is a beautiful country in Northern Europe. It is one of the three Baltic states, along with Latvia and Estonia, which lie directly across the Baltic Sea from Sweden and Denmark.

The country was first occupied by the Soviet Union in the 1940s, before being invaded by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end in 1944 and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied the country. On March 11, 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare itself independent.

The Lithuanian language is one of the oldest of the Indo-European languages. Because it is one of the least-changed languages in the world, it gives us an insight into the words spoken thousands of years ago.

Jadvyga Čiurlionytė collected songs from the elders before the culture would be lost under Soviet rule. (Image: Baltic folk via YouTube/Screenshot)

Jadvyga Čiurlionytė collected songs from the elders in fear the culture would be wiped out under Soviet rule. (Image: Baltic Folk via YouTube/Screenshot)

The Lithuanian lullaby in the featured video is one similar to what my own grandmother sang to me when I was a baby. Lithuania’s lullabies often mirrored the rhythm of a rocking crib. The “Aaa Aaa Aaa” sound heard in the song represents the movement of a rocking chair, while the lyrics translate into “hush-a-bye my little daughter, my beautiful daughter,” with the words repeated with the rocking sound of the voice.

In the 1950s, musicologist Jadvyga Čiurlionytė set out to preserve the country’s musical heritage by recording folk songs in field expeditions to the remote villages in the countryside:

Europeana Sounds discuss the material and importance of preserving the Lithuanian culture through the recording of folk songs while under Soviet rule:

This is a recording of a Lithuanian cattle-herding song from Dzūkija (South-East Lithuania):

These are the lyrics to the song in the recording:

Filmmaker, artist, and poet Jonas Mekas, who is often called the “Godfather of American Avant-Garde Cinema,” is of Lithuanian descent.  Jonas and his brother returned to their homeland in 1970s and recorded their journey in the documentary Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania.

It’s a delicate and reflective film. The scene above is from the documentary and is entitled “Mama Bakes Potato Pancakes.” It pays homage to the older women that Mekas remembers from his village. The documentary allows the viewer to explore Lithuania’s heritage through a personal and poetic lens.

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