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About the festival

23−26 May 2024

The international folklore festival Skamba skamba kankliai has been held in Vilnius since 1973 and is one of the few authentic ethnic music festivals in Europe.

The oldest folklore festival in Lithuania

This event had a significant impact on the entire Lithuanian folklore movement − it was and still is an important part of the dissemination, development, present, and history of our country’s ethnic culture.


30 years ago, the Skamba skamba kankliai community became a powerful “velvet” (i.e., non-violent) force, slowly unclenching the tight grip of the occupation – the Lithuanian folklore movement was one of the forms of resistance to denationalisation and Soviet ideology. Without it, there would not have been a Singing Revolution.

Over the nearly 50 years of its existence, this festival has become an annual “feast” for all aficionados of Lithuanian folklore and has shaped its image as a celebration of ethnic culture. Taking place on the last weekend of May, every year this festival brings together a large community, bound by strong ties.


In addition to the traditional events – the “Pasidainavimų vakaras”, “Naktišokiai”, meetings with village singers, performances by Lithuanian and foreign ensembles, instrumental music concerts, folk artist markets − new forms of presenting traditional music can also be found in the festival programme. For example, the “Sutartinių takas”, “Tradicijų akiračiai “Nakties muzika”, “Festivalio kinas “Naktinės dūzgės” and other events that stimulate interest in ethnic culture from our society and festival guests.

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The early days of the festival

The actual start date of the festival was discovered in draft protocols from the personal archives of Daiva Čičinskienė, secretary of the Folk Music section of the Vilnius City Board of Culture for many years. Initiative was taken by Eugenija Venskauskaitė, who diligently tried to collect the scattered and unstructured facts about the history of the festival.

The idea that Vilnius needs a folk instrumental music festival had already been in the minds of Vladas Bartusevičius and other famous cultural figures of the time.

In October 1973, a folk music concert, “Skamba skamba kankliai”, was held at the Palace of Concerts and Sports. At the end of May 1974, a festival was held in various halls around Vilnius and in Kalnai Park, with Petras Juodelė suggesting the name “Skamba skamba kankliai” – which translates into “kanklės [a traditional Lithuanian folk string instrument] sound”. Vidas Aleksandravičius took on the role of director.


The historical flow of the festival

In addition to song and dance ensembles, ethnographic ensembles also participated in the first concerts of Skamba skamba kankliai (performing the joint programme prepared by Laima Burkšaitienė, then the head of the folklore ensemble of Vilnius University; ever since, the song “Vidury lauko pušynas augo” is still a popular piece among folklore ensembles). For some time, groups promoting stylised folklore and groups fighting for the authenticity of traditional culture participated in the festival side by side.

It was a natural resistance to the ideology of Soviet festivals, stylised folklore, and the Soviet ideology of levelling culture. During the period of 1973−1988, it was very important to restore to the people of the cities their faith in the value of their native culture, its eternal existence, and the survival of Lithuanian identity. And they succeeded! Since 1979, the courtyards of Vilnius University, the Alumnate, and other places in the Old Town during the festival become, in a way, almost like farmsteads for lovers of folk art. Anyone and everyone can come to sing, dance, and have fun in a common whirlwind of festivalgoers. The festival’s concerts take place both in the courtyards of Old Town and in concert halls. Every year, the organisers of the festival try to assimilate and “tame” new spaces. This is how they eventually settled in the Bernardine Garden, adapted the spaces of the Church of St Catherine’s, the courtyard of the Vilnius County Adomas Mickevičius Public Library.

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