One of our favourite showcase festivals and music conferences, Tallinn Music Week is starting this week, and yes – we are excited!
Between 30 March – 1 April, about 250 artists from over 30 countries will perform in Estonia’s capital, and yes – we would love to see all of them.
But we have asked a dozen of beehype contributors from around Europe (and one from Asia) to recommend one artist from their countries, and here’s what they came back with.
Belarus: Shaman Jungle
Shaman Jungle is a band representing a new wave of Belarusian world music. One may call their music ethno-trance – a thrilling mix of psychedelic-style world music with a powerful percussion, atmospheric cello and female vocals.
Their latest album “Amazing”, which you can stream here, issued just a month ago, was recorded with a whole band going for a week to a secluded village. Their TMW performance will be enhanced by special visuals and fire show.
Among other Belarusian performances at the TMW is a prominent beatmaker Awlnight, a rare case of a non-Estonian artist invited to TMW for a second time in a row, in the meantime showcased at MENT Ljubljana 2017 in Slovenia. He’s got several albums released in the US and Canada
You might also see Evand – a neo-classical threepiece, which loves to play music that much, that they play it anywhere – from concert halls to the streets of Minsk, as well as ili-ili – an indie/pop/rock band, consisting of professional theatre actors, singing in Belarusian and Russian, which got both alternative (Basowiszcza Festival) and official (National Music Prize) awards for its works.
Belgium: Whispering Sons
The first time I heard about Whispering Sons was in the spring of 2015, when they won the Rock Race, a student contest in Brussels. Not much after that, I completely fell in love with their single called “Wall”, and so did the folks at beehype after I proposed them to post an article about it.
At the end of that year, I saw a live show by Whispering Sons, and when they asked to be added to the roster of my booking agency called Soundboxes, I didn’t doubt for one second, as the songs from their already brilliant ep sounded so much better on stage.
A few months later, Whispering Sons won Humo’s Rock Rally, Belgium’s most important rock contest, that counts top class acts like dEUS, Balthazar, Goose, Amatorski and Absynthe Minded among the winners and finalists of previous editions.
Less than twelve months after this, things have gone full throttle for the band with loads of concerts, among which there were 4 packed shows in some of Belgium’s best clubs (AB Club, Muziekodroom Club, Het Depot Foyer and Charlatan) and 2 European tours that brought Whispering Sons to many countries.
I am pretty convinced that there is much more to come. Tallinn Music Week is a great next step that will undoubtedly open more doors. I strongly recommend everyone to go and see their show.
Denmark: The Entrepreneurs
The Entrepreneurs is a Copenhagen-based trio that first came to our attention around two years ago. The main attraction is lead singer’s Mathias Bertelsen’s unique and easily recognizable baritone vocals.
The music The Entrepreneurs bring is a modern and somewhat romantic take on noise rock and they are revered in Denmark for their energetic and intense live performances. Definitely a must-experience in my book.
Estonia: Maarja Nuut & Hendrik Kaljujärv
Around 125 Estonian artists will perform at this year’s TMW and we would love to see all of them. But having to pick one, let us recommend someone we’ve already seen in various settings and always loved what we saw.
Obviously inspired by village music, but too wide-ranging to be put in “folk musician” category, Maarja Nuut combines traditional music with storytelling, loops, and magic. She’s one of those artists you have too see at least once live in your life, possibly in a quiet theatre where her silence sounds as loud as her violin, voice and heels while she spins around on a wooden mini-stage.
At this year’s TMW, though, she’ll be one of the stars of the opening night. She’ll perform in a duo with a fellow Estonian producer and composer Hendrik Kaljujärv, and together they’re supposed to “push boundaries and expand soundscapes of Maarja’s latest album ‘Une meeles‘.”
Finland: Mikko Joensuu
After the breakup of his band Joensuu 1685, Mikko Joensuu had a long way to go. Some five years of playing small shows and quietly perfecting his craft lead to a solo debut of epic proportions. Last year, he offered us two parts of his “Amen” trilogy – suitably grand, in the impressive way of bands like Spiritualized or Spacemen 3 – and both of them ended up in beehype’s Best of 2016, opening and closing our list for Finland.
Apart from Mikko, you should also see Timo Kaukolampi. The lead shaman of K-X-P seems to conjure music from a whole another dimension, distilling years of devotion to krautrock and all kinds of outer regions of music into an intoxicating brew. With the solo live performance usually ranging from ambient to pounding beats, it’s especially recommended as an idiosyncratic approach to techno.
Iceland: Úlfur Úlfur
Úlfur Úlfur is an unusual rap duo comprised of Helgi Sæmundur Guðmundsson and Arnar Freyr Frostason, both based in Reykjavík. They formed the band around 2011 and since then has been gaining attention first in the Icelandic scene, and – recently – internationally.
They employ cool, restrained production, mixing laid-back beats and minimal synths to an outstanding effect. Sometimes the music exhibits occasional electro-pop leanings, but its main appeal derives from the rapping, fully in Icelandic language, which contributes to the albums’s unique flow and vibe.
Giungla is Emanuela Drei. For a long time, she fronted a band called Heike Has The Giggles, and after they disbanded, she started this solo project. She just released a 4-track EP, but got a lot of exposure on national and international media and played in several festivals in Europe and USA.
With just her voice, her guitar and a drum machine, Giungla performs strong and straightforward songs. There’s a lot of variety despite the simple setup: all the elements are used in an array of different, and always very effective, ways. On stage, Emanuela is alone as well, but she displays a charming charisma, so that the performance is also nice to watch, not only to hear.
If you had a chance to see this London-based Japanese musician’s performance, you know it’s an extraordinary, daydream-like experience.
At first, he was a vocalist and guitar player. His band played at one of the biggest rock festivals in Japan in 2008. But in 2011, he started a solo project with audiovisual effects with “abirdwhale” as his moniker.
Židrūns (popular male name in Latvian neighboring country Lithuania) has released three albums, but from record to record the bands’ musical language and expression has varied.
So it’s rather difficult to describe the style of music Židrūns are playing, but it contains something from punk and grunge to melodic indie rock.
The group’s latest album “Židrūns un tas, ko nevar nest” (meaning “Židrūns and the thing you can’t carry”) sounds more fun, expressive and peculiarly cheerful. And so should be their concert at the TMW.
Lithuania: Sheep Got Waxed
Formula of the new weird of Lithuania: take experimental electronica, mix with jazz knowledge and add some punk attitude. You get trio “Sheep Got Waxed“, whose second album “Pushy” appeared in our Best of 2016 list for Lithuania.
I know some people who survived only 10 minutes of their concert and other people who call them one of the best Lithuanian contemporary bands ever. The truth is, you can call their sound sophisticated, harsh or wild, but almost never soft or comforting.
All three of the guys are professionally trained jazz musicians, but they go far beyond that. They use their backgrounds in electronic music and even heavy metal, skip the vocal line, and use both their hands and their feet to play music.
They’re creating a sound somewhere in between free jazz and experimental electronica. Not descriptive enough? Then try to imagine the sound of little fluffy sheep getting waxed.
There are six Polish bands in this year’s TMW line-up, from a young minimalistic electronic duo Coals and a new “Polish footwork” star Rhythm Baboon that appeared in our Best of 2016, to one of our most revered music archaeologist, Janusz Prusinowski.
But let me recommend one of the first Polish bands we presented here on beehype, the still-new female trio Sutari. They recycle traditional folk songs from Poland and Lithuania in an unorthodox way, as for that purpose they employ both historic instruments and all kinds of kitchen and garage hardware.
“Sutari means to harmonize, to agree,” they told us a while back. “The word comes from the Lithuanian language, and it’s related to Sutartines – traditional women’s songs for multiple voices typical of this country. This idea of women singing together in perfect harmony inspired us to try it ourselves – with all the baggage of our modern nature.”
Even though they come from the northern part of Slovakia, they named their band after the southern region of Europe. And even though you might expect a pure sound of the Balkans from their music, they combine various inspirations including jazz, film music and traditional Slovak songs.
What Balkansambel present is not the straightforward Balkan music you might expect. Balkansambel take themselves easy and combine all the traditional influences with humor and true musical craftsmanship.
Karmakoma is a 4-piece from the city of Krško in south-eastern Slovenia, moving and grooving the audience with a punkish mix of electronica and rock. So it’s not a surprise their influences range from LCD Soundsystem to Alice in Chains, from Holy Fuck to Shellac.
Live the ultra tight band, Karmakoma shows off this mixture of punk attitude while making you dance as hard as you can.
Sweden: Albert af Ekenstam
So, question: Why should you see a Swedish guy with a guitar that isn’t The Tallest Man on Earth? Answer: Because Albert af Ekenstam is so much more than just a guy with a guitar. It could be because of his background as a musician in several different genres or maybe it’s the fact that Albert never stands still.
He released his debut album “Ashes” recently, but the songs prove that Albert isn’t a novice. The best thing is that it’s even better live and Albert always manage to hold the audience in one steady clutch and you can just sit back and let someone else enrapture you.
If Albert is new on the solo scene, pop artist Jennie Abrahamsson – also performing in Tallinn – has been around since like forever. First album came 10 years ago and she just released her 5th album “Reverseries”. She got me hooked back in 2011 when the magical album “The sound of your beating heart” was released and since then I followed every step on her musical path.
She’s been the opening act for Peter Gabriel several times but this year she´s ready to headline every single stage in Europe. If you are in Tallinn you really should go see how electronic minimalism connects to maximalism. It’s large but compact and Jennie’s intense presences is something you must experience live.
A solo project by Nata Zhyzhchenko, Onuka is one of the most prominent and internationally successful musicians in the contemporary Ukrainian (pop) scene, combining electro with more traditional / local influences.
Her recent EP “Vidlik” (“Count-down”) was dedicated to the Chernobyl disaster, its influence on Ukraine and the whole world. The singer’s father was a disaster fighter, that’s why her childhood was full of stories about this tragedy. Now she decided to speak about it. The band used, as usual, ethnic Ukrainian instruments to create a unique sound. However, this time they also used records of talks between CNPP’s controllers, the voice of Google Translate and – for the first time – cimbalom, lyre, buhay and electro instrument theremin.
The album is full of sense and it’s aimed to remind people about the tragedy on CNPP and its consequences. “Vidlik” is an album which makes you stop and think about the past and the influence of this disaster on our present and future. Lyrics provide an important message, which in the end, empowered by music, hits you!