Muinaslugu Sinilinnust CD
Reede, 09 Detsember 2016 02:14
Otepää Silm - Estonian Life No. 49 2016
Now I know what I want to ask for from Santa. On November 26 Estonian World Review (eesti.ca) posted an announcement that by month's end a CD of evergreen Estonian pop songs would be released. "Muinaslugu Sinilinnust" (A Fairy Tale about a Bluebird) is a direct reference to two great Raimond Valgre songs, "Muinaslugu muusikast" and "Sinilind."
While the slender one is not a huge fan of pop as it often borders on elevator music, what with the saccharine lyrics and often insipid melodies, a listen to the demo at estonianevergreens.com led to an email to jolly old Nick. Failing his largesse (pun intended) the CD is available at Apollo, Estonia's biggest music store. The Solaris shopping mall location in Tallinn was where the disc was launched on November 30th.
Soviet era pop in Estonia was marked by blatant rip-offs from the West. Music by American and British tunesmiths with Estonian lyrics. Jashka (as Jaak Joala was known for an alleged preference for touring in the SSRs as opposed to Estonia, it was about the rubles), Uno Loop, Marju Kuut and Silvi Vrait (originally Wright) were pop singers who made it big in the Soviet era "empire" singing such covers. Just think of "Lady Madonna" sung in Estonian or Russian, with violins in the background. Ugh. However, the eminent jazz magazine Down Beat named Kuut the top jazz singer of 1965 in the Soviet Union. To these ears Kuut sang pop, not jazz, but hey, I say potato, you say tomato.
However, Estonian composers, beginning with the incomparable Valgre, and other luminaries such as Arne Oit and Leo Normet, were no slouches, as listening to selections from this CD proves. These are all esto: lyricists such as the non-pareil Heldur Karmo and Valter Ojakäär had a way with language that often overcame the limits of the genre. Not sappy love songs à la Paul Anka or Neil Diamond but rather many lyrics concentrated on nature's beauty. "Suveöö" and "Taas punab pihlakaid" are but two such golden oldies.
Not that love is forgotten. The classic Oit/Karmo collaboration "Mis värvi on armastus" merits a fresh listen today, among others.
The recording was ambitious, and certainly not a re-release. Here are a few lines from the online promo announcing the CD: "Behind the idea of the project is the question why didn't famous (evergreen) Estonian pop songs, written in [the] years 1945-1980, reach the best world artists, though the songs had such potential. The answer is simple – the „red curtain" created by the Soviet regime excluded such possibility at that time."
Further: "an international jury (music professionals from Estonia, USA, Germany and Finland) chose the best songs from 100 Estonian songs from that period, and these were newly recorded in order to give our evergreen songs a fresh sound by top performers."
And some of them are among the biggest draws in Estonia. The slimster admits to having a soft spot for Ott Lepland. But consider the rest of the singers on the disc: The soloists are Maarja, Liisi Koikson, Elina Hokkanen, Sofia Rubina, Susanna Aleksandra, Kaire Vilgats, Laura, Koit Toome, Karl-Erik Taukar and Uku Suviste. Maarja's version of "Taas punab pihlakaid", the Kustas Kikerpuu hit, did not make it to the demo, but one can be sure that with her pipes caressing that wonderful song it is a winner.
The Lutz Krajenski Big Band, their name obviously from the leader, an internationally renowned arranger and big band specialist from Germany, backs the singers.
To put the project's scope into perspective, consider the following. About 100 creative people toiled for 2 years at this, while a crew from Estonian Television, led by Jaak Kilmi, recorded the results. In the works is an 8-part documentary series, to be aired in January of 2017 by the national broadcaster ETV. A condensed version of the documentary with the international market in mind is also on the table.
The website suggests that there are two versions of these classics on the CD – in Estonian, and in English, with new lyrics from a who's who of English language lyricists. No translations, judging by the English titles.
If the jolly old guy does not whisper my desire to own this CD to jõuluvana, for whom there seems to be no e-mail or cell phone number available (so Estonian, so private, right?) the lean machine – it ain't easy stayin' gracile – will have to suck it up and order the compilation online. Don't take my word for it. Listen for yourself. Either at EWR or go to Apollo's site apollo.ee/muinaslugu-sinilinnust-cd.html For the Muzak and schmaltz haters here is audible proof that estos were truly good at pop.Otepää Silm