Founded in 1968, Vilnius University Folk Ensemble RATILIO is the oldest city folk ensemble in Lithuania. Its name comes from archaic Lithuanian songs, where ratilio (pronounced [rʌti'lo:]) is often used as a sort of refrain. Although the word does not exist in contemporary Lithuanian, it does evoke the image of a circle or wheel (Lith. ratas), which captures the idea of continuation and renewal within the ensemble, the cycle of life as a fundamental principle of the traditional world view and the sense of community, expressed through dancing and singing in a circle.
The ensemble brings together students, graduates, and even a few professors of different faculties. Here, aspiring physicists, doctors, linguists, historians, and others explore their shared interest in traditional culture and seek authentic artistic expression. They learn songs, dances, games, instrumental tunes, tales, as well as customs surrounding them, from the archives, folklore collections and each other, and enjoy sharing what they have learnt not only on stage, but in their daily lives too.
Comprised of members from across the country, RATILIO represents all five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. The group has accrued a large collection of traditional string, wind, and bellow instruments, from natural wooden trumpets ragai and daudytės, Lithuanian panpipes skudučiai and zithers kanklės, to hammered dulcimers, hurdy-gurdies, fiddles, bandoneons, button accordions, and many more. The ensemble can also boast an impressive wardrobe consisting of a variety of 19th-century holiday clothing and a selection of reconstructed costumes of the Baltic tribes. RATILIO is proud to have sutartinė—an archaic genre of vocal and instrumental polyphonic music, inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity—in its repertoire.
RATILIO performs during national or university events, participates in folk festivals, holds dance workshops, develops concert programmes, and records albums. The group does not only tour Lithuania, but has also performed in many countries in Europe and beyond, including the US, Canada, Mexico, China, India, Cape Verde, etc. The ensemble has been awarded a traditional Lithuanian award Aukso paukštė (En. ‘The Golden Bird’) in the nomination of the Best Youth Folk Ensemble of 2010.