Posts Tagged ‘maarja nuut’

Introducing… Maarja Nuut

Posted on July 6th, 2016 in Features, Recent posts by .


Bastiaan Springer catches up with the singer and fiddle player who’s been making waves with her experimental take on Estonia’s traditional music

There has been a buzz among world music aficionados for a few years now around Estonian fiddler and singer Maarja Nuut. This young, very talented musician stole many hearts with her spellbinding showcase at WOMEX 2014 in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. In a unique way she combines classical and traditional Estonian dance tunes, songs and stories with live looping.

A solo artist, Nuut commands the stage with her mystical songs, haunting vocals, dancing and foot percussion. She often starts her songs with a single violin motif, deftly looping it and adding harmonic layers with voice and violin improvisations. Her magical music can be categorised as minimalistic folk, leaning strongly on tradition and adapted to the present. With elegant songs about silken-feathered birds, horses and ghosts Nuut creates dream-like music, inviting her audience to travel to other times and places.

“For me, music and the images and stories hidden in it offer an opportunity to travel from one reality to another, visiting places where everything is possible,” she explains. “We spend a large part of our lives sleeping. There are also many different borderline states, for example lucid dreaming. I think excessive rationality is restrictive and in a wider sense dreams give us a chance to sense life in all its possible shades.”

Maarja Nuut was born in 1986 in the small Estonian town Rakvere, where she started learning the violin when she was seven. She continued studying at the Tallinn Music High School and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Love for traditional Estonian music inspired her to study at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy before going on to take a master’s degree in Stockholm.

Her debut in 2013, Soolo, was the result of her research into early 20th-century Estonian field recordings and contains a fascinating mix of Estonian folk, spoken words and remarkable, constantly changing soundscapes. “Soolo was rather sketchy, a combination of different approaches and ideas, put together in the middle of a process of research.” The album received a lot of attention, rave reviews and invitations to perform outside Estonia. In recent years Nuut has toured the US, Canada, the UK and Europe, making her the face of Estonia’s recent folk revival.

On her new album Une Meeles (In the Hold of a Dream) Nuut again explores the boundary between reality and dream with lyrical songs. What makes this modern folk masterpiece so exceptional is the delicate balance between Nuut’s technique and almost psychedelic improvisations. “My new album is the outcome of an internal, ripening process,” she explains. “I have created a lot of new material and explored my technical set-up. It’s a slow process but my new album feels much more solid than my debut.”

It’s a breathtaking introduction to Nuut’s melancholic dream world, which is rooted in the mysticism of the Estonian soul and nature. Transferring this fairylike Estonian folk music to the 21st century makes Maarja Nuut one of today’s most interesting traditional music innovators.

This article originally appeared in Songlines #119. Nuut’s new album Une Meeles is out now.

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Maarja Nuut – Une Meeles | Album Review | Top of the World

Posted on July 3rd, 2016 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


Words by Nigel Williamson


Could she be the Björk of the Baltic?

The 2013 debut album by the Estonian fiddler and singer Maarja Nuut secured her a WOMEX showcase, which those lucky enough to have been present say took their breath away. Still in her mid-20s, she has released a second album that lives up to her prodigious promise – and then some. There’s an experimental otherness that marks her out as a Baltic Björk; but her music is also deeply rooted, drawing on a rich patrimony of traditional Estonian village songs and dance tunes.

Her debut was titled Soolo (Solo) and she’s similarly unaided here, although her voice and fiddle are multi-tracked and looped to create startling layers of sound. The effect is subtle and sensitive and yet, in its way, it is as subversive as the work of the Finnish accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen. Tunes such as ‘Kargus’ start with a minimalist drone, to which Nuut then adds a more harmonious second fiddle before her voice wordlessly joins the mix, imperceptibly at first but gradually taking over the melody to create a shimmering tone poem. Other tracks, such as ‘Sidisulist Linnukene’ (The Silken-Feathered Bird) and ‘Vaga Linnuken’ (A Silent Little Bird) are more conventionally song-based although the drone is still prominent, as if the Velvet Underground had morphed into an Estonian folk band. Unique, extraordinary and as warm as it is weird.

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Top of the World July 2016: The best new releases

Posted on June 10th, 2016 in Features, Recent posts by .

Our selection of the top ten new releases reviewed in the July (#119) issue.

Fanfare Ciocărlia
Onwards to Mars! (Asphalt Tango Records)


Balkan brass band Fanfare Ciocărlia offer 14 tracks on their latest record, released in celebration of their 20th anniversary in the music business.
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Elza Soares
The Woman at the End of the World (Mais Um Discos)

Elza Soares - The Woman at the End of the World Cover

Elza Soares, now in her late 70s, demonstrates why she is considered one of Brazil’s best samba singers in a bold release that is a fiery mix of original, uncompromising tracks.

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Kel Assouf
Tikounen (Igloo Records)

Kel Assouf - Tikounen Cover

Another guitar group to come out of the Touareg music scene, Kel Assouf return with a strong, rocking second album. Powerful rhythms and contagious grooves are aplenty on this feisty record.

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Leyla McCalla
A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey (Jazz Village)

Leyla McCalla

An outstanding sophomore album from the young cellist and banjo player. Three years on from her stellar debut, McCalla once again draws from her Haitian heritage and Creole influences.

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Matthias Loibner
Lichtungen (Traumton Records)

Matthias Loibner - Lichtungen Cover

Austrian composer Matthias Loibner possesses extraordinary skill on the hurdy-gurdy; his new album shows the astonishing range this unusual instrument has in his hands.

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Maarja Nuut
Une Meeles (Maarja Nuut)


Fiddler and singer Maarja Nuut delivers her experimental second album – an exceptional listen that draws influences from her Estonian roots and displays her promising talent.

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Melt Yourself Down
Last Evenings on Earth (The Leaf Label)

Melt Yourself Down - Last Evenings on Earth Cover

Utilising abrasive sounds and forward-thinking production, the London-based band Melt Yourself Down show they are a force to be reckoned with on this game-changing album.

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Derek Gripper
Libraries on Fire (Derek Gripper)


With great aplomb, the South African takes on the compositions of the great 21-stringed kora players on his classical guitar. Gripper’s delicate transcriptions deliver beautiful results.
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Mahsa Vahdat
The Sun Will Rise (A Cappella) (Kirkelig Kulturverksted)

Mahsa Vahdat - The Sun Will Rose Cover

Vahdat is one of only a few female singers living in Iran to record regularly outside the country, and here she produces a profoundly personal album with no instrumental accompaniment.

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Live: The Farewell Tour (Navigator Records)


Bellowhead’s final album highlights the 11-piece big band in blistering live form. Known for their fantastic live shows, the album exhibits why these guys will be dearly missed.
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Now listen to this… Bombino, Maarja Nuut and Sona Jobarteh

Posted on April 22nd, 2016 in Features, Recent posts by .

Songlines Playlist

Here at Songlines Towers we’re always on the lookout for the most exciting music from around the world. Check out our playlist of tracks that we’ve been listening to.

Maarja Nuut – ‘Hobusemäng’
North Estonian fiddler and singer Maarja Nuut has finished work on her new album Une Meeles, which will be released on June 3. ‘Hobusemäng’ is the second track from the long-awaited album.


Sona Jobarteh – ‘Gambia’
This is the latest track from Gambian kora player Sona Jobarteh. There’s a new album out later this year and she’s been hard at work setting up the Gambia’s first Mande music school. Read more in next issue (June 2016, #118) on sale May 6.


Midnight Groovers – ‘O Ti Yo’
This track by the Dominican kadans (cadence rampa) band is from the Sofrito: International Soundclash compilation from 2012. It is a perfect track for any summer playlist, and Sofrito are celebrating their 10th anniversary this month.


Bombino – ‘Akhar Zaman’
This track is the first on Nigerien guitarist Bombino’s latest album Azel. Here’s a recent performance of the song in a studio session.

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