Jim Matus and Laila Salins (graphic design by bmo)

Jim Matus and Laila Salins (design of photo by bmo, a/k/a James Belanger)


the newly formed duo of Latvian singer Laila Salins and bandleader Jim Matus perform original songs, accompanied by guitar, laoutar and harmonium – drawing on a lifetime of musical adventures in world fusion, chamber music, folk, tango and jazz, to create cinematic soundscapes.

In spring of 2021 they released the debut of their progressive folk-jazz CD, High We Shine the Sky.


High We Shine the Sky: themes that emerge here reflect dream language and tales of longing; responses to the recent toxic regime in the White House and the covid-19 pandemic; and reflections on living in the wilderness of the “Hidden Hills” of Western MA.

High We Shine the Sky is composed of 12 tracks, which span from the upbeat driving sound of Switch It Up, (video at right), inspired by Bishop Barber and the BLM movement – to the modal, metric asymmetry of Treetop Bebop and Vertigo Crossroad. An integral part of the sound of the duo comes from the rich sounds of the laoutar, an electric hybrid between a mandocello and a Greek laouto, designed by Jim Matus together with Rick Turner.

The circus that was unleashed by the Trump presidency inspired Sybil and the Clown, based on an old Latvian melody, while Suspended Animation addresses the sense of life being frozen in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. Other songs are based on metaphors from scientific phenomena: Free Radical and Nothing Eyes Can See (referring to dark matter), both incorporating dense, jazz-inflected harmonies.

The title track, High We Shine the Sky (at right), is a lyrical soaring ballad in 5/8, with a video by Arturs Virtmanis — a meditative, shifting landscape of colors.

above: TalaMana on tour in Latvia: Jim Matus, Laila Salins, Timo Väänänen, Shane Shanahan

EARLIER PROJECTS: TalaMana Ensemble: Songs along the Amber Road

Laila and Jim created the song cycle as part of the European “Capitals of Culture” program. This is a journey, in song, myth, and images – along the amber road, the ancient trading route that led from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean. Original music has been combined with arrangements of ancient melodies from: Finland, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Greece and Egypt. A narrative describes the history and myths of the amber road. Video images were created by Arturs Virtmanis.

A full performance at the Riga Congress Hall in Latvia on August 6, 2014 by the Talamana Ensemblecan be found below: Laila Salins, vocals, shruti, melodica; Jim Matus, laoutar, vocals; Shane Shanahan, percussion; Timo Väänänen, kantele, vocals, video by Arturs Virtmanis.

Timo Väänänen, Laila Salins, Shane Shanahan, Jim Matus