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Happy birthday, Maestro!

January 12 marks the 85th birthday of arguably Latvia's greatest-ever musical figure, composer and performer Raimonds Pauls.

Media of all sorts is flooded with messages of goodwill and appreciation for the artistic veteran, universally referred to as 'Maestro', whose oeuvre extends all the way from folk to jazz standards, children's songs, film soundtracks and several melodies that might make a legitimate claim to be unofficial Latvian national anthems. 

Whether you're shopping at the supermarket, listening to the radio, sitting in a restaurant or attending the Song And Dance Festival, you're almost certain to come hear a familiar Raimonds Pauls tune within a matter of minutes, and all with his signature swing.

Though not well-known among Western audiences, Pauls is widely celebrated in Latvia, and across the former Soviet space for a number of hit songs such as Dāvāja Māriņa aka A Million Scarlet Roses, The Speechless Song, and others.

Pauls' influence on Latvian music and culture is difficult to overstate. He wrote the score to many Latvian film classics, including Vella kalpi, Dāvana vientuļai sievietei, Mans draugs — nenopietns cilvēks, Limuzīns Jāņu nakts krāsā, Ilgais ceļš kāpās, and othersPauls also composed for plays, ballets and musical stage works.

After the restoration of independence Pauls served as the Culture Minister of Latvia and as a Saeima deputy.

Pauls has received a number of awards, including the Order of the Three Stars, the highest civil service order of the Republic of Latvia and the Order of the Rising Sun and Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon from Japan.

Leading the celebrations and deminstrating the Maestro's prolific output into the bargain is Latvian Radio 2, which is holding a 'Maestro Musical Marathon' during which it will play Pauls' music exclusively for 85 hours. The radio station has also put a gallery online of portraits of the composer by his fans which shows he continues to appeal right across the age spectrum. 

Despite his advanced years, Pauls remains as active as ever, and a special solo lockdown concert last year proved he still has the musical magic in his fingertips. We can add nothing but our own congratulations. Happy birthday Maestro! 

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