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Written in fRoots issue 374/375, Aug/Sept 2014

Imemaa – Wonderland
Estonian Folk Orchestra EFO001 (2013)

This is a surprise, the joyous bursting-out that Estonian music has been waiting for. It’s also a splendidly energising antithesis of the twee and limp.
    Massed female and male voices open, to be suddenly joined by a wild, crashing instrumental cacophony that morphs into a tense pulse propelling the same regilaul, about a white rabbit killed and eaten by a hunter who returns its bones to the forest, where they become a rabbit once more. Sustainability!
     Muscular accompaniments, from the large ensemble on fiddles, Estonian bagpipes, kannels, cow horn, flutes, jew’s-harps, saxes, accordions, cello, guitars, harp, bass, percussion and more, intensify the winding, repeating-but-changing patterns of Estonian traditional songs.
     Tuulikki Bartosik’s idea for a folk big band formed from her students at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy has come to vari-textured, not at all academic-sounding fruition, with the arranging and playing help of Jonas Knutsson (top Swedish saxist and frequent collaborator with Ale Möller, Lena Willemark et al).
     There are parallels, in concept, musical power and exuberance, with the now well-established Galician big band Sondeseu put together by Rodrigo Romaní.
Full of strengths and innovations, it will undoubtedly be a landmark for the Estonian revival at home and abroad, not just in itself but with ideas and experiences for its musicians that will spawn and spread.


© 2014 Andrew Cronshaw

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