Viljandi, Estonia hosts the country’s largest folk festival


The town of Viljandi in southern Estonia hosts the biggest folk festival in the country. the annual event, held since 1993, brings a lot of buzz to the country’s sixth largest municipality.

This year the festival runs from July 28 to 31 and the lineup includes 18 foreign and over 40 Estonian musicians and bands, performing as usual in the historic setting of the city’s castle ruins.

The theme of the festival this year is “Roots and Treetops”, and alongside a diverse lineup of well-known foreign artists and Estonian musicians, audiences can enjoy many new and fresh collaborations, some of which have been specially designed for the festival. . For the first time there will be a separate program of author songs.

According to Ando Kiviberg, the director of the festival, the main objective of this year’s festival is to “promote the work of authors in the Estonian language”.

“In fact, every traditional story has an author. Some stories will stay with us for decades, even centuries, or they will become a tradition,” Kiviberg said in a statement.

“We discovered the impetus to create such a writers program last year through the memorial concert of Jaak Johanson (an Estonian musician and actor). Jaak was one of the brightest and most influential representatives of Estonian songwriting culture and a true friend of the Viljandi Folk Music Festival. That’s why we thought it was very important to launch a special program dedicated to festival songs in honor of Jaak.

Viljandi Folk Festival 2021. Photo by Thom Brown.

Due to the theme of the festival, “Roots and Peaks”, young talents in traditional music are highlighted to celebrate musical roots and highlight the role of a young talent as a promoter of tradition, returning to their roots in its repertoire, but still bringing some much-needed young energy, the festival team said.

A special program is set up in honor of the 140th birthday of violinist Jaan Palu, who lived on the Estonian island of Kihnu. Runo songs from southern Estonia and the island of Saaremaa will be sung at the concert dedicated to the relationship between mothers and daughters – Celia Roose, Piret Päär and Ene Salumäe created an intertwined program of organ, bagpipes, songs and stories.

Foreign artists include Góbé from Hungary, dance trio Hecki from Austria, mandolin virtuoso Radim Zenki and singer and songwriter Rosa Cruz from Cuba.

Viljandi Folk Festival 2017. Photo by Kris Süld.

In addition to musical performances, there are activities for sports enthusiasts, nature lovers and storytellers. There’s a morning dance class where you can dance to live folk music on the beach at Lake Viljandi, while more athletic festival-goers can compete in pétanque, running and rowing. For children, there are activities in the baby singing lessons and playrooms.

Musical performances are followed by a nightly DJ program on Friday and Saturday.

Read also: Thom Brown: Lessons from the Viljandi Folk Festival

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