Mari Kalkun

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 deeply personal. Rooted in ancient Estonian and Võru traditions, and played on a variety of instruments including kannel, piano and drones, her music—for those of us with ears and hearts open—resonates deep within us to touch our spirits, our souls, even when the language is strange to us. Songs and musical arrangements that are sparse and stripped down allow emotions to surface, and the song breath and reveal itself as something organic and real.

Hers is an intimate music—born of Baltic winter forests and icy landscapes— and yet there is renewal, hope and celebration to be heard. Mari Kalkun’s music has a timeless quality and unhurried sense of time and space. She has released eight albums in Estonia, Europe and Japan. The music and live performances are mostly solo, some collaborative. Mari has worked as a soloist in projects with acclaimed orchestras and choirs, written music for theatre and film. She has toured in Europe and Canada, but her second largest loyal listener base lies in Japan, where she keeps going back for concerts.

Born in Võrumaa, a region in southeast Estonia, she currently lives in a farmhouse built by her paternal great grandfather in 1900. Her father’s family has been living in Võrumaa for generations and there, in South of Estonia, communal lifestyle respecting traditions and ancestors is still alive. The savvusann smoke sauna culture is on the UNESCO intangible heritage list. Her mother was born on a tiny Estonian island of Kihnu which has been also called the last matriarchy of Europe. “I feel lucky that I can gain so much power from my roots and there’s a lot I have inherited from my parents,” the musician explains.

Her vision of her world is a very individual one. “I try to find answers to today’s problems also through old stories and myths,” she explains. “There are so many things which are beyond words, yet we mostly still try to solve them through words. But for me music and art is a way to expand the understanding of these issues.”

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