"One of the best known folk-rock-and-roots bands in Latvia, Ilgi demonstrates the local folk music with a new vibrance and enthusiasm without ever losing sight of its deep roots." - RootsWorld
ILGI has released thirteen albums, five of which were named Best Contemporary Folk Music Album by the Latvian recording industry. In 2006 "Ne uz vienu dienu" ("Not for One Day") reached No. 2 on the World Music Charts Europe, and remained in its top ten for four months. The band returned to the World Music Charts Europe in 2012 at No. 4 with "Tur saulite perties gaja."
ILGI has performed throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, Russia, Australia and China. In recent years ILGI played at the Trad It Festival in The Netherlands, Positivus AB Festival in Latvia, Posthof Festival in Austria, and Suklegos in Lithuania. ILGI represented Latvia at the Brandenburg Gate when it joined the European Union in 2004. The band's 2007 coast-to-coast U.S. tour included appearances at Globalquerque, the University of Wisconsin World Music Festival, the Cedar Cultural Center, the Freight & Salvage, Swallow Hill, and The Triple Door. In 2011 ILGI made its first trip to Malaysia for the Rainforest World Music Festival. In 2012 the band performed for U.S. fans at Chicago's Old Town School of Music and at the Latvian Song & Dance Festival in Milwaukee.
In 1981 Ilga Reizniece, a classically trained violinist, formed the folk group ILGI (Latvian for friendly spirits). She soon was joined by Maris Muktupavels on kokle, bagpipes and accordion. They traveled the country learning folk songs and traditions from their elders at a time when the Latvian folklore movement was more of a political statement than a musical trend. In contrast with the Soviet sanctioned sugar-coated presentations of Latvian "culture", true Latvian culture was preserved in folk songs and dances by folk groups such as ILGI. The latter groups became de facto centers of national and cultural studies.
As Reizniece recalls, "from the very beginning we were different from the authentic music ensembles in the traditional sense. We have always been interested in music as art, not just the folklore aspect of it. There always has been a dual purpose of the group: we had to fulfill our mission in preserving the Latvian heritage, return forgotten lore to the nation, but at the same time we really enjoyed just playing the music. I am a professional musician after all."
After Latvian independence was restored in 1991 ILGI began to travel abroad, and some of its music shifted from minor to major keys.
Another shift occurred in the late 1990's. Muktupavels and Reizniece had been playing in ILGI as well as in the rock band, Jauns Meness. Gatis Gaujenieks, a native New Yorker of Latvian descent, moved to Latvia and joined ILGI in 1997 as a musician, sound artist and producer. ILGI's meditative and somewhat traditional approach gave way to fuller instrumentation and bolder arrangements without undermining its foundation of Latvian folklore. The result was exhilerating. Their first joint effort, ILGI's CD "Saules meita," was awarded The Latvian National Grand Music Award by the Ministry of Culture and Best Folk Music Album by the Latvian recording industry. ILGI's modern sound appealed to a larger and younger audience in Latvia and abroad.
Over the years Reizniece and Muktupavels have been joined in ILGI by some of the best Latvian musicians. In addition to Gatis Gaujenieks on electric bass and ancient giga, they recruited Egons Kronbergs, an accomplished rock guitarist (The Hobos), in 2001. Martins Linde, a successful jazz drummer and percussionist (Time After Time), completes the current roster.