Auļi is a modern Latvian folk group consisting of six bagpipers, three drummers, and one electric cellist. Founded in 2003, they have come to call their particular style “ethno trance” – mixing powerful and ancient instrumental patterns with influences from house, rock, and world music. They say that they find the most inspiration from nature and their national history.
The group is made up of ten members: Kaspars Barbals, Lynn Barbeau, Gatis Valters, Maris Ekabsons, Edgars Karklis, Normunds Vaivads, Gatis Indrevich, Mikus Chavarts, Edgars Krumins, and Kaspars Indrēvics. Each member brings something special and important to the group – many play more than one instrument.
Although formed in 2003, they didn’t release their debut album, Sendzirdēju (I Heard), until 2005. This album received praise for its innovative use of traditional bagpipe and drumming patterns – mixing traditional music with unusual harmonies and vibrations. Even though the primary listener was part of the younger Latvian generation, many people noted the ability for even older people to enjoy Auļi’s unconventional sound.
Throughout the next decade, the band experienced sustained success within Latvia, and are known locally for well-attended, high-energy concerts and festival appearances. The group has also worked to draw various types of ethnic music together, often collaborating with other folk artists from Latvia but also various European and Asian countries.
Above: the band’s breakout hit “Dzied’ papriekšu, brāļa māsa” (Sing Out, Brother, Sister)
In 2017, Auļi released their sixth album, Lai māsiņa rotājās!, which earned them the Latvian Annual Recording Award for the best folk music album of 2017. Additionally, this album brought Auļi’s sound abroad, putting their album as #26 on the World Music Charts Europe 2018. The most popular song from this album, “Dzied’ papriekšu, brāļa māsa”, received over 2 million views on YouTube.
Since this breakout album, Auļi has experienced more success, including their 2018 single with “Hunnu Guren”, which is their most popular song to date with over 5 million views on YouTube. This music video is a great example of the aesthetic of many of their music videos – pairing beautiful vocals and sounds with stunning views of nature.
The most recent album, Latvju Zīmēs Rotāties (Decorated with Latvian Symbols), was released in January of 2022, and it appears as if Auļi will continue making music in the future. I would recommend this band for anyone who enjoys powerful instrumental music. Auļi’s sound is unlike anything I’ve heard before, yet their music is undeniably powerful and unconventional, which is why I would definitely give it a try.
Above: Auļi’s biggest hit to date, “Hunnu Guren.”