theartsdesk in Tallinn: Music Week in the European City of Culture | New music reviews, news & interviews
theartsdesk in Tallinn: Music Week in the European City of Culture
The Estonian capital caters for all musical tastes from Chopin to death metal
It’s an important year for Estonia. The Baltic nation celebrates 20 years of independence from Russia. Capital city Tallinn is European Capital of Culture for 2011. It’s also 10 years since their Eurovision win. theartsdesk is here for Tallinn Music Week, the third annual celebration of the country’s music. Integral to the national fabric, music was fundamental to the independence movement: the move to split from Russia was dubbed “The Singing Revolution”. Tallinn Music Week is more than bands playing and DJs DJing – this festival is laden with meaning.
There’s no doubt that Estonia’s music – like the Estonian-developed Skype - resonates beyond its borders, even though Tanel Padar and Dave Benton’s Eurovision winner “Everybody” didn’t lead to the duo scaling the heights of our charts. Eurovision, the acclaimed Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the internationally known composer Arvo Pärt are pieces of a jigsaw. The importance of the music is recognised by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who turns up at shows and addresses the festival's opening press conference (pictured below, at the opening event). He's a big Arcade Fire fan.
Pieces were revealed to me last October when two of the stand-outs at Finland’s Lost in Music festival were Estonian – the highly odd conceptual folk singer Orelipoiss and pop girl Iiiris. One of my favourites is the long-running (they formed pre-independence) band Röövel Ööbik, a spiky-edged New Order/electro-leaning rock band. Estonia is more Nordic inclined than Baltic (Finland is a two-hour ferry ride away), so of course there’s lots of heavy metal in here. These broad stylistic sweeps are reflected in Tallinn Music Week. Reinterpretations of traditional local folk are here. Rap and classical pianists too. And more.
The city itself is a curious mix too. Old and new sit side by side, sometimes jarringly so. A former brewery that’s become a restaurant/bar/arts complex has a new blue-glass multistorey block sitting astride one of the brick buildings. It’d work fine on its own as a modern office block, but simply looks odd, as though the architect paid no attention to any disconnect between the old and the new.
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