The greatest kokle in Latvia

The kokle is a Latvian traditional music instrument, a plucked string instrument similar to the zither. Latvian Radio's "Vai zini?/Do you know?" broadcast has produced an interesting look into the largest and supposedly the greatest kokle in Latvia.

Master Eduards Krauksts created this unique instrument created in 1947. It is the greatest kokle in Latvia and, probably, in the world, also called 'dižkokle' (grand kokle) and 'bāga'. A kokle of this size sounds in the low register, so it can be called a bass kokle or bāga. The word "bāga" comes from the Suiti ethnic group, where it refers to the lowest or bass pipe of a bagpipe.

Born in 1896, Eduards Krauksts came from the Lithuanian borderlands, but he made his kokles in Aizpute, where he learnt to build them from the renowned player and maker Pēteris Korats.

This kokle is impressive in its size – 2 meters and 9 centimeters in length. The average height of a Latvian is about 1.75 meters.

The kokle itself is made of spruce, which is the traditional wood for making kokles, but the master craftsman has made the generously sized strings from the wires of an old wartime telegraph line - so whatever was available in the post-war conditions.

Master Krauksts served in the Latvian Rifles in his youth and was a company scribe. From then on, he developed the habit of documenting the instruments he made himself: for thirty years, he meticulously documented the process of making his instruments.

On both sides of the kokle are special patterns.

 The description of the kokle contains the deciphering of the patterns – these are traditional Latvian folksongs or dainas.

The original of the greatest Latvian kokle has been kept in the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum since last year, but a copy has been made. The oldest Latvian social organization - Riga Latvian Society - after receiving a donation from the Krauksts family, with the support of the Culture Capital Foundation, implemented the restoration of the grand kokle.

Professor Valdis Muktupāvels wrote about the way the kokle was played in antiquity: "Unlike other instruments, the kokles were played only for oneself – as such, contemplation or apprehension, observation. Also, in archaic notions of kokle play, there is the idea of having to play until “church bells start ringing in your head.” This phrase could be interpreted as an indication of the state of altered consciousness, and the mention of church bells adds some sacrality to it".

Lithuanian researcher Romualdas Apanavičius believes the kokles were extradited in the shape of boats and coffins because it signifies a journey “to a different sun.” 

Folklore researcher Janīna Kursīte writes that kokle is an instrument that harmonizes and renovates the world. 

The sounds of the kokle are also attributed magical effects, not just on the listener, but on the entire surrounding space. In most cases, it's positive

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