“Vilki” prehistory starts in 1980 when a folklore ensemble named after Jukums Vācietis, a commander of Latvian Red Riflemen forces during World War I, was founded. However, it was badly accepted by the occupying Soviet regime, and the KGB arrested the leader of the ensemble Māris Ošs. Then, another similar folklore group was created, but the KGB pressured it once again. Finally, the group “Liepavots” was founded in 1987 with the goal to promote the cultural heritage of Latvian soldiers. As the group turned its attention to learning the songs and the way of life of ancient soldiers, it decided to change its name and has been known as “Vilki” men's ensemble since 1992.
The core of their repertoire consists of soldiers' songs from the most ancient times to the present day. The ensemble chooses songs from archives or learns directly from the former soldiers.
Currently “Vilki” consists of six men, all of whom have an interest in soldiers’ way of life as well as Latvian folklore. Each member practices one of many ancient handicrafts, such as woodworking, leather working, silversmithing, etc.
Most of their costumes are also handmade by themselves based on fragments of ethnographic material from 9th to 13th centuries found in archaeological excavations throughout Latvia.
Yet, a soldier doesn’t stand apart from the rhythms of everyday life, and therefore “Vilki's” repertoire includes songs reflecting all stages in a man's life – from the cradle to the grave. “Vilki” often sings these songs at various ceremonies in which they are being asked to participate, as well as at festivals and special events where they teach about Latvian traditions.
“Vilki” aims to popularize and transmit this rich cultural heritage to the next generations, especially the very colourful heritage of soldiers' songs. Thus, they often perform in schools and for army troops, and promote patriotism and richness of Latvian folklore. These lectures are a lively illustration of the soldier's life through song, ritual, and true stories from the battlefield.
“Vilki” performs and represents the Latvian culture in their home country and abroad.