Time flies. Now we cannot believe that everything is over. Three months passed like one day, a great day. These three months were definitely the best this year. It’s impossible to tell about everything, it must be experienced. Even as we are writing our impressions, we cannot find words. Rather, it is easier for us to write another musical album dedicated exclusively to Tartu. But still, let’s try.
A small town that you will never forget
It all started in hot August. It was an unusually hot summer this year, not only in Tartu. The streets were full of tourists, many small cafes and bars. We enjoyed walking around the city and its atmosphere of calmness and warmth. In the beginning we thought that everything was ahead and did not expect that three months would pass so quickly. Compared to Petersburg, where we are from, Tartu is a very small town, everything is within a walking distance. For us, it turned out to be a big surprise, because after St. Petersburg you always strive to use transport. It was much easier to walk from point A to point B, and walking around Tartu is always a pleasure. In the center of the city there are beautiful buildings, very European; on the outskirts there are old wooden houses, preserved from the old days. We walked a lot, although in Petersburg we rarely go outside. It felt very safe in Tartu. You can rarely meet a drunk or aggressive person. However, after we got some inspiration, we started searching for material for our work.
When we applied for participation in the Residence, we didn’t think too long about what we could work on. The great land of Setu is not situated far from Tartu. We heard about Setu people a lot. Part of them also live in Russia, in the Pskov Region. We have always been interested in the folklore of different nations and the more rare it is, the more it’s interesting to explore their culture and traditions. Actually we never identified ourselves as a folk band and did not seek to sing folk songs. Folk music reflects so perfectly not just a set of sounds but a layer of feelings and life of a whole nation. Therefore, for us, such work is certainly interesting.
Very soon we went to the homeland of Setu to a village called Obinitsa. There was a food festival on that day, accompanied by various concert programs and local crafts. We made a wonderful walk around the local premises, and then joined the meal in the Seto atelier-gallery. Outside, a terrible downpour started, so in a cozy hut, we warmed up and tasted local cuisine. It was very cozy. At the same time excellent local musicians played some traditional melodies and songs. One of them was Evar Riitsaar.
When we talked to Evar, it turned out that he was not only a wonderful musician, but also an artist, engaged in the making of traditional Setu silver chest brooches – salyg. Evar even showed us a small film about making this kind of silver jewelry. We were lucky to get his unique CD with records of the Setu traditional male choir.
Two sides to Setu
It was a great surprise for us that the Setu countryside is so well-kept in Estonia. Moreover, people are doing a really great job preserving their cultural heritage. Free buses take you to any location in the suburbs, beautiful old houses with museums and restaurants inside, lots of activities and much more. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about Russia. If you cross the border and go to the area of the Pechora town, you have little that you will learn about the people of Setu. In Russia, this culture is not very supported. The population of the Setu in Russia is very small and nothing is being done to maintain this region. But let’s not talk about the sad part. As a result, we came to Estonia on behalf of Russia, in order to support the cultural heritage.
To tell the truth, three months turned out to be very little time for recording musical material. August was a month of inspiration. September – a month for us to prepare the music. We went through a lot of traditional compositions both in Setu language and in Russian. We’ve decided to give preference to the Russian-language songs. Firstly, because we were afraid to distort the traditional Setu language. Secondly, Setu people who still live in Russia had some songs translated and performed in Russian language as well. And the fact that they existed was a pleasant surprise for us.
We usually record material in our home studio, but the Residence kindly provided us with a professional studio in the Tartu Elleri music school. Previously we had not worked in a studio. And for us it became definitely a rewarding experience. As a result, we selected four songs from all the material, one of them was still partly in the language of Setu. It was also in the music school that we began intensive preparations for the upcoming concert in October.
First cold and last days
October was a fruitful and perhaps the most emotional month. We had to move to a new apartment, due to the fact that the old apartment was being renovated. Our new place was located much further from the center, in the vicinity of the Karlova district. However, as we already wrote above, in Tartu the distance for us was not noticeable. There were a lot of post-Soviet five floor buildings around, and if you go a little further, you will find yourself in “wooden” Tartu. Small streets surround the old wooden houses in the Art Nouveau style of the second half of the XIX – beginning of the XX century. This is an indescribable feeling when, literally in few minutes from the hypermarket, you slowly sink into the amazing atmosphere of the turn of the century.
The weather in October showed itself in full, too. The beginning of October was cold, and the middle was again unusually warm and sunny. However, towards the end of the month the cold struck and it even snowed. Just in time for our performance. We presented our program in a very cool place – Genialistide Klubi in Tartu. It should be noted that in spite of the fact that during our concert, we were surrounded by the theatrical scenery for Caligula (yes, do not ask, this is a long story), the concert was a great success. The club has a very beautiful and professional sound and pleasant atmosphere.
Melancholy of departure
After the concert, we had one week left of our stay. We decided to relax, made a small dinner for our friends and colleagues. It was a week of walking, talking and thinking. Of course we did not want to leave. During these three months, Tartu had become very dear to us.
Probably some things you need to live. Great city and great people. We met many talented artists here. Trini from Chile, who painted a wallpainting on the wall of the Estonian Print Museum, two wonderful artists from Finland, Hans and Maya. After visiting their artist’s talk, we learned how many wonderful art projects they created. Another Finnish artist, Mia, who presented a magical collection of photos taken in Tartu. And of course a talented artist from Spain, Domingo, who become a good friend to us.
We want to say big thanks for everything to the Estonian Print and Paper Museum. Lemmit Kaplinski, Salme Kulmar, Margus Kiis, all of you guys who have been with us – you are super!