A voice that seems to speak to us from the heart of the Estonian forest, Mari Kalkun’s music is at once of a place and yet deeply personal. Rooted in ancient Estonian and Võru traditions and infused with the peculiar features of Estonia’s dialects and the traditional regilaul chant, her music resonates deep within us to touchspirits and souls – even when the language may be strange to us. Songs and musical arrangements that are sparse and stripped down allow emotion to surface and the song to breathe and reveal itself as something organic and real. Hers is an intimate music born of Baltic winter woods and icy landscapes and yet there is renewal, hope and celebration to be heard also. Mari’s voice speaks directly to us all and reminds us just how vast the soul of the singer can be and just how small our world really is. Kalkun is the accompanist of her own songs using mainly kannel (traditional Estonian zither), accordion, harmonium and various experimental instruments.
“Ilmamõtsan” (In the Wood of the World) is her third solo album and comes seven years after the critically acclaimed “Vihmakõnõ” (Dear Rain). However, Kalkun has not been idle. Quite the contrary: She gained a Master’s degree in traditional music singing from Estonian Academy of Theatre and Music, further advancing
her skills at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki; she was nominated as the Best Estonian Singer at the country’s “Ethno Music Awards” (2013); formed an international band, Mari Kalkun & Runorun, with whom she released the album “Tii ilo”; and meanwhile became a mother. Mari Kalkun also recorded a full-length album for children in Võru language, moved back to her family home – an old farmhouse in South Estonia, which she renovated and equipped with a studio which looks out into nature. Following a tough period in her personal life, Kalkun started writing her own lyrics and dived deeper into her mother tongue Võru as well as the music business.
Literally meaning “the world”, the title “Ilmamõtsan” comes from the Võru language, and as the songs of the album were written and recorded in her home studio in Võrumaa, South Estonia, surrounded by woods and hills, they have a strong connection to the forest. According to Kalkun, for many Estonians, the forest is a
spiritual place to find peace and to reflect and contemplate, not to mention the practical features for picking berries and gathering firewood.
Coming from that very rural place and travelling the world with her music, Kalkun has developed a keen interest in the issues affecting the planet and its people, the environment, indigenous people, globalization, etc. and so these topics have found their way into her songs. Just like the forest, the world is full of life and
darkness. “To keep my feet on the ground, my head in the song skies, I need to feel and know my roots,” Kalkun comments.
“Ilmamõtsan” is a very personal album, keeping a connection with the artist’s roots and her mother tongue and at the same time exploring the possibilities of voice and soundscapes, mindscapes. Most of the songs are dedicated to a particular friend or family member or were inspired by birthdays, funerals, weddings as well as the local stories. It reflects the human need to seek support from songs at the times when we need to order and settle our emotions.