the ’80s rock group that rocked Soviet Latvia and forged a new youth culture – The Calvert Journal
But the authorities were quick to react. The group was banned again and Kulakovs was subjected to personal disguise by party officials. “They told me I had to leave the country. The Pērkons were however spared from further sanctions by the start of Glasnost and the gradual relaxation of cultural controls. Re-founding again under the guise of an agricultural cooperative (this time it was the official band of a rural cooperative of fishermen collective farm, or collective farm), they were increasingly exposed by the rapidly liberalizing Latvian media.
The biggest political blow to the regime, however, was not dealt by Pērkons as a group, but by their singer, Ieva Akurātere. In 1988, she appeared live on television singing a touching ballad called Manai Tautai (“To my people”), which has become one of the musical brands of the Latvian independence movement. With a newly formed Popular Front calling for democratic reforms and the right to separate from the USSR, Akurātere and Pērkons found themselves presented as musical ambassadors for Latvia’s national awakening. The group performed outdoor concerts to boost morale at the barricades in Riga in January 1991, when Soviet special forces reportedly prepared a coup against independence.
Despite all the notoriety of Pērkons, they are not always the easiest group to join for a non-Latvian listener. Give or take the classic strange like Baltas lapas pie (The White Sheet), a cascade of melodious hooks that reveals Kulakovs ‘genius as a pop composer, most of Pērkons’ repertoire is a mishmash of 70s rock.