Rituals galore at Viljandi Folk Festival

  • 2013-07-24
  • By TBT staff

MANDATORY: The variety of music at the festival means it appeals to all.

VILJANDI - The Viljandi Folk Music Festival in Estonia has a central focus on European folk music. It is traditionally held during the last weekend of July, when the otherwise quiet city of Viljandi is completely transformed as the small city center is suddenly flooded with music lovers. The main attraction of the festival is its friendly atmosphere. Over 25,000 people attend every year, and many more just come to take part in the festivities. It is the largest annual music festival in Estonia, and one of the largest folk music festivals in Europe.

The festival itself has grown from a more traditional Estonian folklore festival to a massive enterprise with an increasing number of international celebrities. Even some of the key native bands headlining the festival could easily be classified as folk rock (Vagilased), and even folk metal (Oort). The modern and popular music influences make it highly appealing to the youth, and almost all university students have been to the festival before they graduate. Hardcore fans of Estonian ethnic music prefer the more traditional festival held in Voru (south Estonia).

This year the festival will focus on ritual music connected with different holidays.
Over four days, approximately 200 performers will take to the stage, giving over 60 concerts. The festival will also features workshops, film screenings, exhibitions, a fairytale room, a fair for music instruments and other exciting activities.
The theme of the XXI Viljandi Folk Music Festival, which takes place on July 25-28, is “Holy commotion.”

All Estonians are used to making a bonfire on Midsummer Eve, dance at weddings, take part in singing festivals, go door to door to sing and wish luck to people on Mardipaev and to spin humming tops on Shrove Tuesday. In addition to all of these, there are countless other personal activities which have become rituals without which we could not imagine life as we know it. But have we ever thought about why we do these things?

A large part of traditional music is strongly connected to the rituals celebrating different holidays. Introducing the different customs for holding parties across cultures is at the heart of this year’s festival.
One of the most powerful rituals, which best represents traditional music and customs, is the wedding. A proper wedding party lasts for at least three days during which an enormous repertoire of songs are sung, two families become one by dancing and the guests weave their best wishes for the happy couple in their dance steps. The wedding keeps the older folk songs alive and the labyrinth of wedding rituals has its roots deep down in thousands of years of history. Introducing the wedding culture is going to be one of the keywords of this year’s festival.

During the festival, wonderful music will be heard and the performers on stage will show you how to party properly. Holiday rituals from different cultures and the sounds which go with them will be introduced in detail in workshops and lectures. Party dishes from different cuisines will be prepared in the Food Yard and many more events will take place which have become part and parcel with folk music festivals.

The event will be a mixture of music and dance which can be silent and fragile, but also loud and tumultuous. Mixing these different emotions together creates an atmosphere which can be described with the phrase “Holy commotion!”

Viljandi Folk Music Festival July 25 – 28
More information on the program available at: www.folk.ee