Making and recording „Tii ilo“ (’Beauty of the Road“) album has been a very exciting musical journey for me. With this album I wanted to combine traditional and contemporary music without losing a personal touch to it. I’ve been searching and playing with the imaginary boundaries between singer-songwriter (which I’m most known for in my home country) and traditional musician. As a result of this process, I do feel I’ve overcome this barrier. I’ve been lucky to have so vivid folk song scene around me in Estonia consisting of friends and writers who practice folk singing not only on stage but often as a part of their everyday life. Folksinging has also become part of my everyday life – at birthday parties, in sauna, in funeral or whereever in need. Not in the way everyone would understand folk songs, learned one by one only from archive BUT using the runo song as a language tool to play around with the lyrics, express something important from the moment and nowadays. The same way as any other contemporary music style such as rap or hip-hop does, just using mostly traditional formulas. (I’ve had so powerful improvising experiences from „real life“ that I was afraid to bring them on stage because I thought it’s very hard to achieve the similar kind of collective feeling and spontaneous energy with them. But the concerts with Runorun have proved me that people are very much up to singing along and listening to the stories, whether in Estonia, Finland or in Hungary.)
The theme of the album „Tii ilo“ means „to make beauty of the road“ and it comes from runo songs where one can find many connections between walking, sleep and awakeness, longing for home and an urge to explore unknown places. In the olden days „tii ilo“ was created while sitting on carriages and singing. I’ve entered a similar musical journey together with musicians I’ve found „on the road“ and when I met them in Helsinki I became eager to know how the songs would sound when we play them altogether. Runorun is a dream-band for me. It started with me and double bass player Nathan trying out some songs and improvising together. Maija Kauhanen I tracked down immediately when I came for exchange to Sibelius Academy. I heard she is a one-woman-orchestra developing very rhytmic/polyrhytmic kantele-playing style as well as a good vocalist. We decided to invite Tatu along who is familiar with various percussion cultures from around the world – and the quartet was complete. From there onwards we worked on my song arrangements together and I brought also many traditional melodies to the rehearsal. Since beginning, we’ve been very consentaneous in artistic questions. The only problematic thing has been logistics as at some point our band was spreaded out to three different countries… The name of the group is inspired from runosongs, the word „runo“ (means poem in Finnish), hinting to English word running and having also enough repetition in it so you can keep going runorunorunorunorunorun (which almost sounds like an engine starting).
While living in Helsinki, I also met an interesting artist Tatjana Bergelt, whose collage-like works astonished me. She combined old family and landscape photos, maps and words into collages which she painted or draw over by hand. Many of the works made me think about the roots or minorities and let your mind wondering about identity issues and consciousness of roots. I liked her works, she liked the music and we met up again to write a project to Kone Foundation and started up our collaboration as a result of which also the visuals for „Tii ilo“ album were born. She used the lyrics of the songs to make her own new visuals and printed, painted and sew them on textiles. At our record presentation concerts one can see them along with the music complementing the concert space.
In music, I care for stories which are personal. This makes the music meaningful for me, even if it’s traditional music which is often thought to be anonymous. But traditional music is created by individual people as well. A big inspiration to compose this record was my interest towards folk songs from Estonian area and close-by regions. Through my traditional singing studies in Viljandi, Tallinn and Helsinki, a whole new world has opened up to me. I have discovered that my roots are from traditionally very powerful places in Estonia – Võrumaa and Pärnu/Kihnu. I’ve started to notice small hints around me from this fading culture and language in the surroundings I’ve known since childhood. In Võrumaa, my older relatives and neighbours still speak Võro language which is tremendously different from Estonian and a few of them still carve crosses on trees when their family member dies. There are signs in the landscape telling stories about this very old culture and previously high inhabitance – cross-tree forests, big sacrifice-stones by the forest or on a hill. And many signs from the stopped continuity – abandoned villages, old farmhouse ruins built from field-stones, sometimes in midst of forest. Nowadays Võrumaa is one of the least inhabited and poorest Estonian regions.
I have got a glimpse of close-by region such as Votic and Livonian songs which are very close to Estonian and Finnish language. With a surprise, I’ve discovered that with just a little bit of effort I can quite easily understand sentences from Votic songs. For me it is like discovering a treasure – there is a language which nobody speaks as mother-tongue anymore, but we can keep it as singing/song language. And through these songs, we can trace something bigger – the very close links between the Fennic cultures and languages.
I thought long about the good place for recording „Tii ilo“. I didn’t want it to be too clean and city-like studio sound. I also got a feeling that the location and atmosphere influences the outcome of the recording. So I booked a studio located in Tuhalaane village in Southern Estonia run by a jazz-guitarist Andre Maaker. There is an old orthodox church-ruins in the backyard of the studio and a nice like in the valley. The lake in the end played a very big role in our album recording, maybe even saved it. Because what we could least expect from Estonian weather was the 32-degrees heat in beginning of August.
Recording with a band was an enlightening experience for me as so far I had been mostly recording at home alone. It was so much more fun with the band! Most songs we recorded playing simultaneously like at live concert. There was a constant flow of creative ideas as a result of which many songs shaped in a completely new way in the studio. But the atmosphere of the studio and surroundings played also an important role for us. The most goose-bumping thing happened when we had just recorded the song „Morning in Siberia“ about a Livonian woman. And when we went out from the studio to have a small break, a very rare butterfly … landed on our coffee-table and stayed with us for the whole break time as bringing greetings from somebody we don’t know.
25.03.2015 in Võrumaa, Haki küla