Tallinn Music Week thrives in the face of difficulty, giving an extraordinary opportunity to really delve into the incredible new music the country has to offer.
It’s a weird time to go to a festival, and trust me it wasn’t a decision made lightly, with the difficulty in travelling, the prospect of self isolation and generally the anxiety about being around lots of other people again, there was a lot to consider. Set in a variety of venues and spaces around Estonia’s capital, Tallinn Music Week has always had huge success in feeling vital and modern like much of the city, as well as respectful and friendly too. Making it the ideal location for the first festival post-lockdown.
As you’d expect the restraints of the current pandemic have somewhat switched things up at this annual event. As one of few going ahead, outdoor spaces have been utilised, hand sanitiser stands at every entrance and handshakes are replaced with the light tapping of elbows. It’s remarkable how normal this all seems and how quickly, how regular it is to feel music pumping out of 6-foot high speaker stacks again. Though the clear and unfiltered delight of the artists and audience tells a different story, making for a festival full of appreciation, energy and pure thrill.
The days are filled with a jam-packed conference schedule, conversations on innovation, inclusion and future-planning have a distinctly (and gratefully received) optimistic feel, with opportunities and successes having a chance to really be celebrated. Tallinn Music Week have taken the challenge of putting on a hybrid digital and physical conference with confidence, using this chance to have guests from across the world. This set up and range of speakers made for an invigorating and fascinating panel schedule, that, in a world of zoom calls and distanced meetings felt seamless and familiar.
For a city of less than half a million, Tallinn boasts and incredible number of spectacular venues. There is honestly nothing that shows up the UK quite like visiting modern European cities, and seeing the care and attention that goes into the spaces that we so often lack. Especially noticeable in the freshly opened port area that includes Nobel Hall; the excitement of brilliant sound, bright lights and future stars on stage was a winning combination.
Now for the music, and one unavoidable issue was the line-up, with acts scheduled to come from quarantine zones and official advice constantly changing, it was impossible to deliver the size and scale of line-up that this festival normally prides itself on. However, this gave an unusual opportunity to a stunning array of Estonian talent to fall even more centre stage.
Knowing virtually none of the acts before we set out, listening to snippets, collecting tips and discussing schedules with friends, allowed a chance to really explore the up and coming music on offer in Estonia. Gone were the hyped acts you can’t avoid throughout the summer and instead new talent was given room to breathe. It was a stark reminder not only what these events should be about, but also the brilliance that comes from stumbling across something there’s just no chance you would see anywhere else. That in itself made for a spectacular and special event that, and a lesson I really hope we consider when moving forward into plans for reopening.
So what did we see that inspired us? Here’s the new music from Tallinn Music Week you can’t miss:
There’s nothing like following your google maps down darkened streets to find a tucked away church, full to bursting with an enraptured crowd, watching a musician not so much perform, as give you a peak behind the curtain at his creative workshop. Pärnoja uses musical textures to create atmosphere and is never anything less than completely captivating.
Young talent is something that really shone through at this years event, first shows, new collaborations and newly recorded material were strongly embraced. Manna caught our attention a number of times with her natural confidence, her blissed out bars and hard edged beats had us hooked.
The sheer variety of the music on offer is always a strength of Tallinn Music Week, and this year was no exception. The ambient softness of Jasperino can’t help but steal your heart and help you find a moment of peace in an over-stimulating environment. Exactly what we needed and nothing short of majestic.
Hall is an unassuming venue that looks like nothing special from the outside, however on entry they demand your phone, placing little circular stickers over the cameras that you give away its internal secrets to the world. An industrial, unfinished feel gives this place a very Berlin vibe which is supported by the minimal and hypnotic techno generally on the offer too. Getting in early, Saraceno takes on the challenge of warming up the dancefloor and does it with a joyful collection of samples and selects, as a regular at Hall you can see she’s comfortable here, honing her skill and making sure we move.
Sveta is one of the mainstay venues of this festivals and you can tell why immediately, it’s relaxed vibe, friendly staff and the pure volume of the soundsystem makes it one of the best places to catch acts throughout the event. That includes ___ whose waterfall of gutiars and vocals was an almost enlightening experience after so many months lacking the feeling of the bass vibrating your sternum. And my god was it welcome.