"It seems that at heart, I am an architect who works with music."
Jānis Lūsēns was born on April 7th, 1959 in Liepāja. He graduated the 8th grade of the 1st secondary school of Liepāja (1975), the theory department of the Liepāja Emils Melngailis College of Music (1979), and the Jānis Ivanovs composition class of the Latvian State Conservatory (1983). From 1999 to 2002, he was the director of the music department of the Liepāja Theatre. Until the mid 90s, he mainly worked in non-academic music.
During his studies, he founded the experimental music ensemble Zodiaks (1979). Though in the beginning Zodiaks was a purely studio group, since the technical possibilities of the time did not allow for concert performances, the musicians achieved great popularity. Especially notable is the Zodiaks album Disco Alliance (1980), which sold in excess of 20 million copies all over the world. The album had simple instrumental disco compositions, however, for its time it was new and unusual. Disco Alliance was the first Latvian pop music record, along with that it was notable for its progressive use of electronics, vivid artwork, and not far removed from Western productions. In 1999, a new version of the single Pacific led to the rebirth of the Disco Alliance album. Four versions of the song were recorded, which were worked on by Jānis Lūsēns, Modris Skaistkalns, Edijs Gņedovskis and the group bet bet. EMI Japan and Poland showed an active interest in the new versions of Pacific.
In the fall of 2002, the song ReLoad by the group PPK reached the top of the charts in England and Ireland, which is based on the melody of the J. Lūsēns song Zodiac. After an unsuccessful attempt to include vocalists in the ensemble, the first line-up of Zodiaks broke up. In 1983, J. Lūsēns began to direct the group Neptūns, also called the Jānis Lūsēns Group. The brightest moment of that time was the song Par smilgām (About Blades of Grass) recorded by Igo. In 1987, Neptūns became Zodiaks. In the new line-up was the singer and violinist Zigfrīds Muktupāvels and the composer’s wife, singer Maija Lūsēna. The group achieved success, receiving the grand prize at the festival Liepājas dzintars ’87 .
Theatre music holds a notable place in the composer’s creative output. The composer has composed music for all the large Latvian theatres. Especially fruitful was his work with the poet and playwright Māra Zālīte, with whom were written many rock operas, as well as Putnu opera (The Birds’ Opera) , which has been performed not only at the Latvian National Opera, but also the Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu, Estonia.
In the 90s, J. Lūsēns seriously turned to composing vocal symphonic works (the cantata Liiv, Magnificat, the choir symphony Dziļā elpā [In a Deep Breath]) . He has worked together with the Latvian Radio Choir and the Riga Dome Boys’ Choir. The songs of J. Lūsēns have been performed many times at the All Latvian Song Festivals and Student Song Festivals. The composer’s author concert Kā maigi dzelošs rožukrūms (Like a Lightly Stinging Rosebush) took place in Liepāja in 1998. J. Lūsēns is one of the rare composers who writes music for children. The composer is also involved in charitable causes – donating income form concerts and recordings to children – the Latvian Children’s Fund, the Children’s Clinical Hospital, handicapped children’s camps, etc.
He has received the Latvian Theatre Award for Best Composer (1996 – for the music for the production of Santa Krusa [Santa Cruz], 1999 – for the rock opera – Kaupēn, mans mīļais [Kaupēns, My Beloved]), the Latvian Great Music Award (for the music productions of 2000 and his contributions to the theatre music genre) and AKKA/LAA Copyrights’ Infinity Award (2003, 2014). As of 1987, J. Lūsēns is a member of the Composers’ Union.
Mārīte Dombrovska Photo - Edmunds Mickus © LMIC