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We’re Listening with EMW: Revo and Toe Tag’s Lasting Sociocultural Contributions


In July 2021, ten years after rapper Revo Jõgisalu (known simply as Revo) passed away at the age of 35 from melanoma, a memorial festival known as FOREVO was held. Directing the festival were his friends and bandmates Genka (Henry Kõrvits) and DJ Paul Oja—members of the Estonian hip hop group, Toe Tag.

The festival spread awareness of melanoma and raised money for children and families affected by cancer. Through the fund called FOREVO MTÜ, donations were given to Eesti Vähihaigete Laste Vanemate Liit (the Estonian Association of Parents of Children with Cancer) and its event, Pardiralli (Duck Rally). Drawing spectators were performances from the likes of Genka and Paul Oja, Dead Furies, Gram-Of-Fun, and Redel.
Revo Jõgisalu. Photo: Teet Malsroos

In July 2021, ten years after rapper Revo Jõgisalu (known simply as Revo) passed away at the age of 35 from melanoma, a memorial festival known as FOREVO was held. Directing the festival were his friends and bandmates Genka (Henry Kõrvits) and DJ Paul Oja—members of the Estonian hip hop group, Toe Tag.

The festival spread awareness of melanoma and raised money for children and families affected by cancer. Through the fund called FOREVO MTÜ, donations were given to Eesti Vähihaigete Laste Vanemate Liit (the Estonian Association of Parents of Children with Cancer) and its event, Pardiralli (Duck Rally). Drawing spectators were performances from the likes of Genka and Paul Oja, Dead Furies, Gram-Of-Fun, and Redel.

It wasn’t the first time a commemorative event like this had happened, either. Several times before, Revo’s friends held the Mälestuskontsert FoRevo (FoRevo Memorial Concert), where fans rallied around the songs he helped to create and celebrated his life.

Remembering the life of a musician adds meaning to their compositions. But it can make it tough to listen to songs, too. I’m reminded of how Dave Grohl found it difficult to listen to anything he recorded with Nirvana, especially the band’s last album, In Utero, because “…it brings back other memories, it kinda makes my skin crawl.”

Then there’s the opposite feeling, where you want to take in a work of art because it represents a person, time, or place which you once knew, or one you would like to have known. Consider Generation Z’s craving for early 2000s or “Y2K” fashion. Or Millennials and their passion for the 80s music and films.

If you want to go back to Tallinn between the years 1996 and 2004, listen to Toe Tag’s album Legendaarne (Legendary). Tracks like “Hundinahas lambad” (which could be translated as “Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing”) are satisfying for their down-to-basics style. The foundation of their tracks is a catchy sample, riff, or hard-hitting beat for Revo, Genka, and guest artists to build their heavy wordplay around.

From their 2009 album Kõik on formuleerimise küsimus (Everything is a Question of Formulation), the song “Asfaldiorjad” (“Asphalt Slaves”) is a danceable track with upbeat energy. Look out online for their live version of the song with jazz and bossa nova singer Uno Loop. There’s also the music of A-Rühm (“The A-Team”), an ensemble that Revo and Genka joined in 1998, with DJ Critikal, Kozy, and Cool D. The principle sentiment picked up on in all of this music is that they had fun crafting it, despite any struggles faced outside of the studio or off-stage.

Already undergoing surgeries, losing hair, and facing worsening health due to the spread of cancer, Revo took to the stage at Eesti Hip Hop Festival in Elva, Tartu County 10 days before he passed away. He wanted to make music until the very end.

However, he was equally serious about his health and the health of others. Before he died, Revo commented on how “An Estonian man does not go to the doctor until it is already painful.” His public fight with cancer led all of his friends and acquaintances to supplant that trend and be proactive about their health. Who knows how many people’s health he has posthumously helped through kindling open discussions and advocacy.

In October 2021, a concert was held in Tallinn that celebrated the 25th anniversary of Toe Tag’s first concert in Tallinn, thus attracting new crowds and listeners for the band’s music.

Revo’s time to make music was cut short; but when music is so tethered to friendships and energetic communities, as it is with his and his friends’ musical endeavours, it moves individuals to action in so many other ways and will continue in that way of its own accord.

Written by Vincent Teetsov


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