London Jazz, 12.04.2016 concert review from Tallinn Music Week by Henning Bolte

Runorun is a highly agile unit on stage /-/. Both vocalists move freely (with their cithers) on stage, challenge each other and act in different positions during their vocal duetting. It is a reflection of the group’s free run through, in and out different songs (laulud). The group’s action is witness of the coolness and power of ancient sources. /-/ In stupefying ways she connects the wisdom of her ancient sources with troubles of everyday life nowadays. That also means that the group improvises its way from one song into the next. Especially the two singers switch easily between rune singings, beat boxing, narrating and vocal battles. Read FULL REVIEW.

Clash Magazine, 12.04.2016 concert review by Si Hawkins

“Eliciting entirely different reactions are trad-but-rad locals /-/, the stirringly-strident, zither-wielding Mari Kalkun and Runorun, Kalkun and friends having already wowed a small crowd with an impromptu call-and-response acapella chant in a hallway the day before, which actually turned out to be everyone wishing her happy birthday, Estonian folk style. Link to full REVIEW

theArtsDesk, 10.04.2016, concert review by Kieron Tyler

Magical, stemming from the traditional and taking it to new places: they are not for a folk audience only – an artistic migration in keeping with the questing defining Tallinn Music Week. Link to FULL REVIEW

Helsingin Sanomat 15.4.2015, album review by Mari Koppinen.

The musicians fit together perfectly: each member has a special sounding and a very loving touch to their instrument.

RootsWorld 11.2015, review by Waldemar Wallenius

It has taken me pleasant months of occasional plunges into Tii ilo to finally get to the point of writing this review, because I was drawn to the endless curiosities of Estonian language and history – and because I felt an obligation to watch all of Kalkun’s 137 videos on YouTube /-/. Tii ilo is so serene and pastoral that I’ve frequently lost track of what track is playing. Read full REVIEW

Soundi 5/2015, review by Antti Marttinen. On this record – everything works!

Finnish Music Quarterly 2015, “Bubbling pleasure” review by Riikka Hiltunen

Estonian singer and kantele player Mari Kalkun has teamed up with musicians from this side of the Gulf of Finland and created an intriguing musical world consisting of contemporary Estonian poetry, Maija Kauhanen’s bubbling kanteles, Tatu Viitala’s versatile percussion and groovy bass by Nathan Riki Thomson. On top of it all is Mari’s effortless and very enjoyable singing.

TheArtsDesk 06 April 2014, UK. “Freedom and Music Thrive in the Shadow of Putin’s Russia”, review by Kieron Tyler

For fears which seem more manifest, folk stylist Mari Kalkun speaks of a nightmare she had over the past couple of weeks where she dreamed of escaping falling bombs. Her fears are incorporated into “Unetulaul” (Sleepless), a song based on traditional Estonian lullabies. She then performs a goose bump-inducing recitation titled “Linnaitk” (City Lament) which draws from mothers’ laments for their departing children which are reconfigured to be about the gradual desertion of her home village in the Vôrumaa region. Read full review

Far From Moscow 10 Nov 2013. “Landscapes and Loops”, review by David MacFadyen

British visitors to that festival not long ago spoke with much admiration of Kalkun’s “atmospheric sparseness… The themes that inspire her songs are recognizable: the landscape and family.” Certain looping patterns are best preserved in older, quieter realms. [-]

Through a liberating practice of improvisation, familial modes of empathy, and introspective fantasy, some modern Baltic troubadours help to make the past relevant. Yesterday proves itself the storehouse for tomorrow’s values; it offers a sense of belonging. Read full ARTICLE

Nils Bernstein, Grandstand Media and Management

When I come to Estonia, I don’t want to see the Estonian version of Radiohead or Mumford & Sons. I want something like this, very personal music completely informed by Estonia old and new. She was my favorite discovery.

Ramunas Zilnys, Lietuvos Rytas @ Tallinn Music Week 2013

She managed to totally mesmerize everyone in the room with her warm voice and other-worldly melodies. You could not help but stare. Making noise with your feet, using an old Indiana Jones videotape – such a simple and effective idea./-/ There’s a feeling when you look at her doing her thing, she’s definitely where she wants to be musically and she’ll hopefully reap huge rewards one day. The sooner, the better. Definitely the one to recommend to ANY music festival (apart from heavy metal ones).

Estonian Music Magazine “Muusika” no 8/9 2013. Viljandi Folk Music Festival 2013 concert review by Avo Kartul

Mari and her band offered two different concert experiences – the church concert was more meditative and restrained, while the tranquility of the same songs alternated with the improvisatory freedom at the outdoor venue. The deep suggestive power and sensitivity of both concerts left an immemorable impression.

MOJO 02/05/2013. “A Kick In The Baltics: Estonia Exports Rock, Of Sorts”, review by Kieron Tyler

More traditional takes on folk are as memorable. Mari Kalkun and her band Runorun employ the brushed drums and stand-up bass of jazz and marry it to traditional Estonian melodies. Her kannel (an Estonian zither) is strummed, but open strings bed her lilting vocals with a drone. No Estonian is necessary to be affected. The effect is akin to Nico or Bridget St John hooking up with a very exotic Pentangle.

CLASHLIVE 10/04/2013, UK. Tallinn Music Week review by Samuel Breen

In a restaurant drinking Georgian wine – no, me neither, but it’s good – a group of bald fat men in puffer jackets walk in. The type you only really see at Europa League matches. Big thick eyebrows, skinheads with little man bag – but instead of football chants its Georgian folk and a male voice choir. So when one sits down next to me I ask if he knows who he’s just performed to. He doesn’t and I point to Peter Jenner Pink Floyd’s manager who’s sitting across the room. That the man has seen every Floyd show and has just applauded my new friend. “Oh, I love Pink Floyd, they’re my favourite band.” The singing continues and Mari Kalkun who’s sat opposite encourages some oratory folk songs. And the men, who are not naturally music-minded, slowly join in. It’s a moment of pure, easy music where the synthetics of a conference are lost in the snowstorm outside.

Picks of the week from industry insiders 12.04.2013. Søren Kristensen (Northern Winter Beat Festival / Empty Tape Records, Denmark):

Estonian folk singer Mari Kalkun and her new band, Runorun: I had been looking forward to this and they didn’t disappoint. A concert like this is why you travel all the way to Tallinn, because Mari’s sound you don’t find anywhere else. In an ideal way she combined the Estonian music tradition with a new, unique sound. Read the full review

Tallinn Music Week (review in TMW catalogue 2013 by Kieron Tyler – MOJO,, Billboard)

A few years back, it was obvious – within moments of seeing her on stage in Tallinn – that Mari Kalkun was something special, transcending what might be thought of as folk. Her connection was supremely atmospheric music and her channeling of it for the audience set her apart.

aQuarius Records (USA) 04.2012. Vihmakõnõ record review.

There’s quite a lot we don’t know about Estonian folk music; but from what she mentions about her own songwriting, Kalkun follows one particular strain – vaibakloppimine.This is a stripped down style for voice, minimal accompaniment, and a distinctive lack of drums, which presumably are prominent or at least present in other Estonian folk musics. In order to even attempt such a style, one has to have decent pipes; and Kalkun certainly has a beautiful voice, one that would bring to mind the empathic delivery of Chan Marshall. But with her minimalist arrangements for guitar, zither, or piano, the most obvious reference to us is Sibylle Baier. That should certainly register as high praise from aQuarius! [-] All sung in Estonian, mind you; but Kalkun’s ability to emote transcends languages, and she’s crafted quite a gem of an album. Read full review

BalticBriefing, about Song of Freedom concert on 20.08.2011 (live concert review by Steve Rackett)

The world should see more of Mari Kalkun. She is an exceptional talent and her strong vocal presence during her two song contribution, with piano, showed her big stage capability. She would be well suited to playing world music festivals across the continent and she also has a firm commitment, knowledge and understanding of the folk music tradition (she hosts an excellent radio show on the subject). Read full ARTICLE

The Arts Desk 27.03.2011 (Tallinn Music Week concert review by Kieron Tyler)

The biggest impact came from Mari Kalkun, who issued her second album late last year. Her sonic drift sits in the same world as Nico and Bridget St John. Melody was not the point, atmosphere was. Sat with a zither or an accordion, she explained her songs are about the wind, the elements. Also singing in rounds, the audience soon joined in – this was Estonia, the singing nation, coming alive. From the southern edge of Estonia, Kalkun’s lyrics are inspired by mid-20th-century poetry celebrating the landscape and people. The interplay with her violinist and Danny Thompson-ish stand-up bassist was semi-improvised and psychedelic, but never far from structure. A highlight. Read full review

Multiple Voices from a Singular Tradition: Mari Kalkun and Possimiste 17.08.2011 (article by David MacFadyen)

The speech of those southern locals is likewise colored by an antique, regional dialect; Kalkun feels that these sights and sounds are increasingly important for a sense of belonging. The present is somehow made, or at least ameliorated, by the (audible) past.


Thanks to an early acquaintance and experiments with the accordion and harp, for example, she discovered “a sense of magic that came from mixing various cultural elements.” On the basis of those merged sounds, which gave common voice to the tools of disparate ages, she began to speak of related social harmonies. Read the ARTICLE

Kieron Tyler Worlds of Music 25.05.2011 (Kieron Tyler)

A knowledge of the source material or an understanding of Estonian isn’t necessary. It wasn’t when seeing her live. It’s the same for both albums. /-/ It’s clear that Estonia has some terrifically interesting and great music coming out of it. Music that cannot have come from anywhere else… Read the full review

fRoots magazine 03.2009 (Andrew Cronshaw)

A feature of the burgeoning Estonian folk scene are some interesting female singers who are absorbing regilaul and Setu song and making their own very individual music. Kalkun here shows promising strength and ingenuity in her attractive, reflective songs drawing on her Võru culture with intelligent largely self-accompaniment on guitar, accordeon, piano and kannel.

‘Universal Mari Kalkun’, Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht 06.10.2007 (Mihkel Raud)

Already a week before the young Võru-Kihnu girl’s debute in Tallinn a good friend of mine keeps bombing me with e-mails à la „music doesn’t get any better than this“ and tries to attract me to Kalkun’s concert. /-/

Certainly in the beginning I have trouble turning down the self-confident and cynical filters of „I-have-seen-everything-from-Ron-Sexsmith-to-damn-Bob-Dylan-himself“. But these first sentences from Mari’s lips and the atmosphere in the room filled with it’s own spirituality and men with glasses and sweaters collides in it’s naivism against the harsh „metropolitan“ cocoon. See the review in Estonian

Estonian Daily ‘Postimees’ 06.10.2007 (Margus Haav)

Mari Kalkun has released one of the most spectacular debutalbums of this year’s Estonian music scenery. Sterile and impersonal studio sound is usually the biggest lapse of many folk artists. Mari’s album is recorded mainly at home and maybe this is the reason why her sounding, mellow voice and meditative melodies create a very intimate atmosphere. See the review in Estonian


In Russian

Студентка хельсинкской академии Сибелиуса Мари Калкун уже успела прокатиться по Европе, бывала и в России, и в Японии. У нее несколько проектов, включая сольные. На TMW компанию ее эстонской каннели составляли австралийский барабанщик, а также пара финнов — девушка, играющая на кантеле, и контрабасист. Каждую песню надо было не только слушать, но и видеть. В одном из треков Калкун все дорогу ритмично шуршала, перебирая ногами. /—/ Очевидно, что для Эстонии Калкун — большое сокровище, и ее обязательно надо привезти на «Дикую мяту» и «ЭтноМеханику».

In Finnish

    ”Muusikot sopivat yhteen täydellisesti: jokaisella on erityisen kuulosteleva ja rakastava ote soittimeensa. ★★★★” – Mari Koppinen, Helsingin Sanomat, 15.4.2015

    ”Võrumaalaisen kanteletaiteilijan Mari Kalkunin ja Runorunin ilmaisu rakentuu seestyneeksi ja pohdiskelevaksi pakottaen pysähtymään. ★★★★” – Juha Seitz, Ilkka, 11.5.2015

    “Tii ilo on edelliseen albumiin verratuna voimakkaampi ja eteerisempi, ehkä paikoin tummempikin. Levyllä soivat entistäkin voimakkaammin kanteleet . Uutta rytmillista sointia tuo basson ja lymösoitinten mahtava yhteissoitto.” – Mikko Virta, The Baltic Guide, 11.2015

    ”Tii Iloa voi luonnehtia melkein progressiiviseksi folk-teokseksi. ★★★★” – Ilari Tapio, Satakunnan kansa, 17.5.2015

    ”Tällä levyllä homma toimii! ★★★★” – Antti Marttinen, Soundi, 5/2015

    ”Virolainen laulaja-kantelisti Mari Kalkun ja suomalais-australialainen Runorun kokoonpano ovat tehneet hemmetin hienon kansanmusiikkilevyn. ★★★★” – Suonna Kononen, Karjalainen, 8.6.2015


    “Mari Kalkun & Runorun puolestaan voimaantuu suoremmista kansanmusiikkivaikutteista. Kanteleet, muut instrumentit sekä moniääninen ja -kielinen laulu koukuttivat yhtä kaikki tehokkaasti.” – Rumba 6.4.2016


  • Radio Helsinki 14.05.2015, live interview with Mari Kalkun by Njassa
  • Aamulehti 14.05.2015, interview with Mari Kalkun & Anna Hints by Simopekka Virkkula
  • Aamulehti 4.10.2014 “Hetki ennen läpimurtoa” (article, Simopekka Virkkula)
  • YLE Radio 1 ”Kaiken maailman musiikkia” (17.9.2013, interview by Amanda Kauranne, recordings from the concert)
  • Tuglas-seura 1/2011 (review, Tapio Mäkelainen)
  • Tuglas-seura levyhylly 01.2008 (review, Tapio Mäkeläinen)
  • Skenet 23.09.2010 (article, Hanna Tiusanen)
  • The Baltic Guide, March 2012 (review, Mikko Virta)




In Estonian

Concert & record reviews

  • Eesti Ekspress 18.06.2015 “Tii ilo” record review by Ott Kagovere, (8/10 stars) ”Mari Kalkuni uus album kõlab traditsioonikesksusele vaatamata üllatavalt värskelt ja kõnekalt. /-/ Varasema, kodulindistusi meenutava kõla asemel on puhas ja viimistletud stuudiopruktsioon, mis Kalkuni muusikupotentsiaalil täiel määral realiseeruda laseb. 8/10”
  • ERR 29.04.2015 “Tii ilo” record review by Tõnu Karjatse (7/10 stars) “Seadelt, läbitöötluselt ja etnograafiliselt ulatuselt on see ülimalt rikas album. /-/ “Tii ilo” Mari Kalkun on edetabeli- ja festivalivõimekas piirideülene etnomuusik, kellele saateansambel on sama oluline kui mitmest rahvatraditsioonist võetud tekstid. 7/10″
  • ERR 14.05.2015 „Live-elamus: mahlaka taktiga ehe ugriakt“, concert review by Erkki Tero “Naishäälte paar toetus mõistagi Mari soojale särtsule, aga eriline lend saavutati vokaalide koosmõjul, mis manas kõrvu võimsalt kandva ugrikoori. Jõudu ei hoitud kuskilt servast tagasi ja trummi­bassi tundlik koostöö toetas kandleviisikesi siidiselt toeka sahinaga.”
  • Ajakiri Muusika, arvustus Joosep Sang 2015. “Mari Kalkuni “Tii ilo” on suurepärane järg tema eelmistele albumitele, mida on märgatud ja omaks võetud. /-/ Viisid on lihtsad, kuid neile on lisatud mitu väärtuskihti: teksti ja atmosfääri mõtestav laululaad, andekad arranžeeringud, leidlik instrumentatsioon (nappide vahenditega, sest pillivalikus on ainult kandled, kontrabass ja löökpillid), ruumikas, vajadusel salapärane või unistav kõlakujundus, lugude reastamine nii, et kujuneb mulje tervikteosest. Mari Kalkun on kvarteti ainus eestlanna (kaks muusikut on Soomest ja üks Austraaliast), kuid tulemus on väga tema enda nägu ja keskendub eesti ja soomeugri maailmale, mitte moekale multikultile.”


Interviews in Estonian media


“Vihmakõnõ” record (Õunaviks 2010)


“Üü tulõk” record (Õunaviks 2007)