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Suiti bagpipers

Suitu dūdenieki count its history from January 22, 2013, when Andris Vasiļevskis, the local parish priest, brought the first bagpipes to Alsunga. Aleta Lipsne started learning the instrument made by Eduards Klints independently. The folk group had its first public performance on June 27, 2014, at the International Drone Singing Festival in Alsunga.

In 2014, the Ethnic Culture Center (EKC) Suiti (director Dace Martinova) bought two instruments made by E. Klints, and then one more, with the money of the LEADER project. In October of the same year, with the support of the Courland cultural program of the State Cultural Capital Fund and under the auspices of EKC Suiti, bagpipe playing master classes were started in Alsunga, led by Eduards Klints, a well-known folk music instrument maker in Latvia. In these master classes, Māris Laizāns and Juris Lipsnis also began to learn the skill of playing bagpipes, a little later they were joined by Anta Puķīte and Santis Vanags.

Master classes led by E. Klints were also held in autumn 2015 and spring 2016. In 2015, Inta Puķīte joined Suitu dūdenieki, in the beginning of 2016 – Pauls Leimanis, at the end of the year – Juris Krafts (drums). Since the beginning of 2018, Ronalds Weiss has been playing together, but in the second half of 2019, Inga Šēna-Laizāne became a bagpipe player. Thus, there are currently eight bagpipe players in the Suitu dūdenieki: group leader Juris Lipsnis, Aleta Lipsne, Santis Vanags, Pauls Leimanis, sisters Inta and Anta Puķītes, Ronalds Veiss and Inga Šēna-Laizāne, and Māris Laizāns has also started participating in rehearsals. The folk group has two drummers – Juris Krafts and Māra Rozentāle (both have also tried playing the bagpipes).

Suitu dūdenieki have been very active in concerts and performances since the beginning. They have performed at the closing concert of the international folklore festival Baltica 2015 in Kuldīga and concerts in Cēsis and Riga, at the Courland Song Festival in Kuldīga, at the closing concert of the international folklore festival Baltica 2016 on the stage of Origo Summer Stage in Riga, at the gathering of Latvian families of the world 3×3 in Pelči and other events. The biggest events in the group’s activities so far – in 2016, participation in the XXII International Bagpipe Festival in Strakonice (Czech Republic), where they performed together with friends from the folk group Abra, as well as involvement in Armands and Andra Alkšņi rock performance Again in Courland and in the Bildes 2017 veterans’ concert of the Art and Music Festival. At the beginning of 2017, Suiti bagpipe players Juris Lipsnis and Santis Vanags participated in the First Latvian traditional bagpipe workshop in Drabeši, where they learned the skill of making this instrument under the guidance of master Uldis Austriņš.

In 2018, Suitu dūdenieki were represented at the conference of the International Bagpipe Organization in Mallorca (Spain), at the International Dance Night in Ģikši, at the international regional bagpipe festival Dudarski Rej in Belarus, participated in the XXVI General Latvian Song and Dance Festival, in the concerts of the International Folklore Festival Baltica 2018 in Riga (at the Freedom Monument opening fanfares played) and in Jūrkalne, Baltica Dance Night in Cēsis, at the international festival 3E or Eko, Etno, Echo in Kuldīga, at the cross-border festival Heritage Road Trip 2018 in Sangaste and Obinitsa (Estonia), in the ethnographic show Wedding of Suits, which took place in Alsunga and Riga, Old Riga also performed at the Christmas market.

Suitu dūdenieki took part in the St. John’s concert in the Kalnciema market, chanted St. John’s in Dzegužkalna, the bagpipes were also played at the Balttour exhibition and at many other events. In July, the Suiti pipers participated in the Kaustinen International Folklore Festival in Finland, where they went together with VPDK Suiti.

At the end of the year, the leader of the Suitu Bagpipes, Juris Lipsnis, took part in the international conference Forgotten Bagpipes – The Latvian Dudas in Helsinki, where he also gave a small performance at the Sibelius Art Academy. Apaļais Mēnes played by Suitu dūdenieki was included in the music selection Sviests VIII.

Following the initiative of the Suitu dūdenieki, a Latvian-wide tradition was started: at the end of May 2018, the Suitu dūdenieki, together with the Suiti Cultural Heritage foundation organized in Alsunga the 1st Latvian Bagpiper Meeting in the Land of Suiti, in which 16 bagpipers and 4 drummers participated. In May 2019, the Second Meeting of Latvian Bagpipers in the Land of Suiti was held, and in 2020, the Second Latvian Traditional Bagpipes Workshop was held in Alsunga, which was concluded with the Third Meeting of Latvian Bagipers in the Land of Suiti. In the bagpipe workshop, under the leadership of Uldis Austriņš, instruments were made not only by interested people from other parts of Latvia, but also by Alsunga residents such as Daiga Kalniņa, Māris Laizāns and Andris Stepanovs, who participated in the gathering as well.

From the history of bagpipes in the Land of Suiti

The oldest information about the Suiti bagpipers is from the middle of the 19th century – Jurjānu Andrejs mentions that in the summer of 1860, when the heir to the Russian throne, Alexander II, visited Liepāja, the Suiti performed for him in a separate music pavilion, with 7 playing bagpipes and 8 playing goat horns.

At the end of the 19th century, bagpipes were almost no longer heard anywhere in Latvia. Only in the Land of Suiti in the first half of the 20th century there were the last real bagpipers to be found. Pēteris Šeflers (born in Alšvang on August 9, 1861, died in March 1945). P. Šeflers Četrpāru dancis was recorded in the 1930s, but his playing was filmed in the 1935 feature film Dzimtene sauc or Kāzas Alšvangā.

Jānis Ceinis from Jūrkalne (called Dūdenieku Jānis, born around 1880, died on March 5, 1929). It is possible that Kristaps, the son of J. Ceinis, also played the bagpipes (known as the Dūdenieku Krišs).

Jānis Veckungs from Gudenieki.

Some other Suiti musicians also played bagpipes:

Nikolajs Henkis, woodcarver, violinist, harmonica player, clarinetist, bagpiper, kokle maker and weaver. Born in Alšvanga in 1864, died in 1934.

Jānis Poriķis, student of N. Heņķis, kokle player and maker as well as bagpiper. He played music in Stockholm (Sweden) in 1939, his kokle and bagpipes are kept in the Royal Museum of Stockholm. Born in Alšvanga on August 2, 1909, died in Riga in 1992.

Pēteris Korāts, kokle player and maker, bagpiper, horn blower as well as the teller of folk customs and folk songs. Born in Alšvanga on December 20, 1871, died in Durbe on September 15, 1957.

In the picture – Pēteris Šeflers and Nikolajs Henķis

Long dance performed by Suitu dūdenieki:

Contacts: Juris Lipsnis, m.+371 26151541, e-mail:

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