Photo: Still from Dance-O-Phones' "Popurrii 2021" video.
Reede, 05 Märts 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 9 2021 - Vincent Teetsov
When was the last time any of us went to a party? A few hours where we could really let loose, sing along to what's played by a DJ or a band, hug a friend, be in each other's company, and “dance like no one's watching” as the saying goes. So many weeks and months have rolled on without these revelries, but that hasn't meant that the performers who create these vibes can afford to stop preparing for their eventual return.
In Estonia, one of the in-demand bands for parties has been a group of musicians called Dance-O-Phones. As you might have guessed, the songs they play are ideal for getting people to move on the dance floor. This includes, as one fan has pointed out, tantsuvõõramad (“strangers to dance”). For some, dancing is frightfully embarrassing, and the people in society who can alleviate that are heroes.
Since their members started playing together in 2006, the lineup of Dance-O-Phones has varied from show to show, with a rotating roster of talented young Estonian musicians that has included guitarist Mihkel Pilt, saxophonist Tobias Tammearu, bassist Raimond Mägi, and drummer Karl Helmeste. The principal elements of this outfit are the unified rhythm created by the deep bass (sometimes acoustic double bass, sometimes electric), crispy hi hat rolls, and chunky rhythm guitar. Soaring on the edges are saxophone and keyboard textures. Typically leading the group with her soprano voice is Mirjam Dede, who audiences in Toronto have had the chance to see before, when a cappella group Estonian Voices came to perform at Lula Lounge for Estonian Music Week in 2018.
They're musicians who have a myriad of other solo projects and bands. Though in this configuration, setlists are mainly built on disco, funk, and rock songs.
While parties have receded, Dance-O-Phones recently released their “Popurrii” video song sample that comes out every year or so, with a loot bag full of hits. At their shows, there's a mixture of Estonian songs like Tõnis Mägi's “Peegel”, and also English language music like The Pointer Sisters' “I'm So Excited” and Dua Lipa's 2020 chart-ascender “Levitating.” The music has brought them to the stage not only at private functions and weddings, which is their primary market, but on the stage at Sõru Jazz in Hiiumaa.
Discussions of music tend to form around the original songs of artists. But while new songs are needed more than ever, more appreciation could be given to artists who reinterpret established pieces of music. Making new arrangements of familiar songs reorients the way a piece of music is appreciated, and is rejuvenating for both performers and listeners. Classical and jazz musicians do it all the time. Music YouTuber duo Pomplamoose also come to mind, for the many cover songs they've spent time shaping in original ways.
As we speak, bands like Dance-O-Phones are preparing for those first few times when partying will feel weird. Many professionals have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, but I have a good feeling that the musicians who administer party atmosphere will be in great demand to turn our moods around.
Written by Vincent Teetsov