The Safari explores Estonian Music and finds Metsatöll!!

So today so far has been a strange musical day. It started when I was thinking about Estonia! Ok so why was I thinking about Estonia? The  reason was that yesterday was the birthday of Ingrid Hagel who according to All About Jazz is an:

Estonian violinist and singer, currently living in Copenhagen/Denmark. An instrumentalist, as well a vocalist, Ingrid Hagel expresses her musical ideas through her original compositions. Her themes and melodic violin solos are full of vigorous energy and are talking the language of the heart and her life in different cultures.

…..Ingrid is currently searching for a publishing partner to her recently recorded album “Tharapita”. The new album get’s it’s name after a superior god of Vironian tribes in northern Estonia, first mentioned in Chronicle of Livonia on 13th century. There is no better term in the Estonian culture that can evoke the unity between man and nature. “When I started composing music for the album,” says Ingrid, “the challenge was to recreate the sensations, colours and landscapes of my childhood’s country house and its surroundings. In contrast to the emotional vortex and the busy city life of Copenhagen, the music is a journey back to all these memories, now coming life again through the eyes of an adult.” For the project Ingrid has chosen Japanese-born pianist Makiko Hirabayashi, percussionist and drummer Marilyn Mazur and a danish bassist Klavs Hovman, to create the vivid pictures and bring the sounds alive through their dynamic performance.

Ingrid has received a Certification of appreciation for the promotion of Estonian culture and music in Denmark from Estonian Ministry of Foreing Affairs, December 2011

So after reading about Ingrid I checked out a couple of her videos you can see a few here

This morning I went to Wikipedia investigate Estonian music. At Wikipedia I found that…..

 The earliest mentioning of Estonian singing and dancing dates back to Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum (c. 1179).[1] Saxo speaks of Estonian warriors who sang at night while waiting for an epic battle. The Estonian folk music tradition is broadly divided into 2 periods. The older folksongs are also referred to as runic songs, songs in the poetic metre regivärss the tradition shared by all Baltic-Finnic peoples. Runic singing was widespread among Estonians until the 18th century, when it started to be replaced by rhythmic folksongs. Professional Estonian musicians emerged in the late 19th century at the time of Estonian national awakening. Nowadays the most known Estonian composers are Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis.

Traditional wind instruments derived from those used by shepherds were once widespread, but are now more rarely played. Other instruments, including the fiddle, zither, concertina and accordion are used to play polka or other dance music. The kantele (Estonian: kannel) is a native instrument that is now more popular among Estonian-Americans than in its homeland. Nevertheless, Estonian kannel musicians include Igor Tõnurist and Tuule Kann.

And then these two paragraphs caught my attention……

The indie folk rock band Ewert and The Two Dragons are among the best known Estonian bands, having had success in Europe and signing with Warner Bros. Records and winning the European Border Breakers Award in 2012. The girl band Vanilla Ninja were also one of the best-known Estonian bands before their hiatus. In addition, artists such as Kerli, Vaiko Eplik & Eliit and Iiris have gained popularity outside Estonia.

So I went on and read:

Metsatöll is a folk-metal band combining runo-song and traditional folk instruments with metal. Another Estonian folk metal group is Raud-ants, who performed at the annual minority language music festival Liet-Lavlut with a song in Votic.

... The name “Metsatöll” is an ancient Estonianeuphemism for wolf, which is reflected in the harshness of their lyrics. Much of their material, featuring flutes and other traditional instruments, is based on the wars for independence of the 13th and 14th centuries. (seems that those centuries were important in Estonian history.Ingrid’s article mentions the 13th century)

Metsatöll started playing together on 24 February 1999 as a three-piece (Markus – vocals and guitar, Factor – drums, Andrus – bass), playing epic heavy metal with small influences from ancient Estonian folklore. The debut album called “Terast mis hangund me hinge” (“Steel frozen in our souls”) was released at that time.

In 2000, a good friend Varulven joined the band. Thus far he had observed the activities of the band and had from time to time joined them on stage. Varulven had self-taught himself a number of ancient Estonian folk instruments and together it was realized that metal and old Estonian folk fit together perfectly. Since then, the music of Metsatöll has intertwined more and more with old Estonian runo-singing and traditional melodies.

The current members of Metsatöll are:

Markus “Rabapagan” Teeäär – vocals, guitar (1999-present)
Lauri “Varulven” Õunapuu – vocals, guitar, flutes, torupill (Estonian bagpipes)

& other traditional instruments (1999-present)
Raivo “KuriRaivo” Piirsalu – bass and vocals (2000-present)
Marko Atso – drums and vocals (2004-present)

In 2012, Metsatöll played on the main stage of Tuska festival in Helsinki. They later released a concert album called Tuska from the same performance. I listened to the album at Spotify and I must say it’s different, they sing in their native language and also the introduction are in Estonian! But the music was great, even though I don’t know what they were singing about. The use of the native instrument was cool!!

Here’s a live performance of “Muhu õud” by Metsatöll at Tuska!!