Viljandi Folk Music Festival : english version of stories combined
About folculations, increase in raspberry prices and other things in Viljandi 2007 AD.
At first I must apologise in front of you, because the story turned out really long. It´ll take forever for you to read it, even longer than Juhan Uppins´ concert lasted in 2006. I blame it all to that damn well. You go out in the morning, when no one else is up yet to get on your nerves, you lift up the cover of the well and hoist some water from that black cold eye 60 feet below and water those half–crisped cucumber plants, and while your hands are busy with work your mind wonders off to remember everything that happened during the latest Viljandi Folk Music Festival. Bucket one brought to mind the bowl-tuning, bucket two – the garbage band, hair garment falling into the water -…how my watch got mixed into a wok dish; and when you shout into the depths of the well, the echo sounds like the ghostly voice of an old concertina player from those 90-year-old recordings they played at the opening….
The drought lasted for two whole weeks and I hoisted the water every day, so you can imagine how many things came to my mind. I COULD NOT just leave them out of the story. In case of any complications from reading it, you can apply for a sanatorium weekend for you and your feline…I mean, female companion. But if you somehow manage to finish it before the next Folk Music Festival starts, then send me your letters and drawings and tell me what you thought about it. I promise to read some letters out loud in the next story.
The first rumination,
Where you hear about the point and purpose of folculations – my rather silly calculations around the festival program - and also about the true reasons behind too few listeners on some concerts. But first, let me entertain you with a nostalgic trip into the past of my festival –odyssey.
I remember one festival night in 2003, when I managed to get lost – in one of the smallest town that I know from head to toe.
I had never had such a long day on a festival before – getting up at 6 am, going to the cemetery to spy on the gypsies (their king is buried there, and sometimes they have a little family gathering on the grave and later leave all the goodies there for the dead to “eat”). Then when I had enough bananas and grapefruits stuffed under my sweater, I had breakfast, went swimming and popped in to the market at my mom´s request. The first workshop of the festival was at 11 am and the next one at 1 pm, then I went to 8 concerts in a row ….and I ended up in the festival nightclub…. oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy.
Now, normally these nightclubs do not last too long, maybe 1 –2 hours, but this time they had left the crowd in the hands of a crazy –punk-rock-ska band from Ukraine – Haydamaky (later to become a true legend of the Festival, their CDs being a hit on every event). And these guys were PURE MAD. They came on stage at midnight, and the people went nuts for them. Their music was quick and energetic. It takes a normal, not too exercised estonian about 35 minutes to be completely exhausted by this up-tempo rhytm. Well, at 2:34 the band had not even taken a break yet…and the festival chief had said there´ll be three breaks. At 3:15 I made plans of leaving, and I walked about 40 feet away from the tent, but then turned back. Heck, if a 50-year-old ukrainian ska-professor can continue after a non-stop, three-hour jumping and yelling on the stage under hot spotlights, so can I.
At 4:20 they said they are going to play the last block of songs. At 4:45 they said the same thing. At 5am I was finally on my way home, almost sleepwalking (walking? More like crawling…) But I was so tired that I did not pay attention to anything, mostly to how many times I had turned away from street corners and which street I was on anyway. Besides, it was pitch black, just the point of midsummer when the white nights are just a memory, when the stars don´t shine bright enough yet, and the cheap bastards in city hall do not waste energy for street lighting….. By the time I actually paid attention and tried to locate where I was, I had walked a kilometer past my house in the wrongest direction possible. This is not happening, I thought, ME? LOST? No way. This is MY town, my streets, my fences, my goddamn Beware-of-the-dog signs…..but it was true. I was utterly and hopelessly lost.
Lost, lost…lost is where I am right now, too. Armed with 5 different highlighting markers, hoping to make sense of it. Barnstormers crossed, Brendan Begley marked yellow…Ando and Friends marked orange, then crossed, then marked green….what did green stand for? Oh dear lord. I need to start all over again.
You haven´t got the slightest idea about what I am doing, do ya? Well *adjusts position* see, this is the festival program. Most performers have two concerts on different days. Some have only one. Then at some concerts you have to pay extra in addition to the festival pass. So my goal is to see absolutely ALL the concerts. Why are you staring at me like that? I said, ALL the concerts, and that is final. So, what I need to do is to mark the most unique happenings with orange, the ones I can go to without having to give up something essential with yellow, the ones I can just squeeze in to my time table with pink, and the ones I CAN squeeze in, but have to pay extra with green [oh, so that was green]. So, now that I have the time schedule set, I calculate the whole cost of the festival, if I bought every singular ticket, minus the cost of the festival pass and extra fees, and then I know just how much I have spared for buying CD´s and…stuff…..What? I KNOW it is irrational, I KNOW it has no logic, you fool ! But it makes me feel better. Plus, how else would I calm my nerves while counting the hours to the start of the festival? You are not an imbecile, you DO understand, I just know. Otherwise shut up.
And I have no doubt there are others with similar highlighting and crossing technique, which explains why some performers have very little audience. Once you have set yourself a personal program, you MUST stick to it. There is NO WAY you can let yourself go adrift in the ocean of choices and things to do, or you´ll end up a vegetable. Parsnip, probably.
The second rumination
That starts with a fright, continues with a naked shepherd in children´s park and ends with wok-dish and a revolution.
“Goddamn moth-of-a cow tail soup!” I couldn´t believe it. Just could. Not. Believe it. Nobody ever takes photos of me during the festival, not a single one during all those 13 years I have been coming here. Not ONE! And when they have finally happened to take one, it is of course from my bad angle, when I am being torn in half in some crazy dance line, and my face looks like I am living the final moment of the agony of death, but high on morphine and therefore happy as a spring jellyfish…THAT picture ends up in the official goddamn festival booklet which every single hormone driven hippie can buy. So embarrassing, I thought, oh, and they ARE staring, I know they are. I was looking around to see if anyone near the desk had made the connection already. Seemingly not, but they may be just pretending! And the festival hasn’t even started yet. Could one find a worse way to draw attention to herself?
But nothing was to be done, I couldn´t hide anymore, and I had already gotten the wristband - of course I couldn’t just let it go to waste. But it is still an hour until the event officially starts, and I have to keep myself busy…preferably away from these booklet desks.
I went to the Childrenś Park, where the city government opened a new fountain that day. Some poor guy was unwrapping the fountain from a very long bed sheet…or something….he looked sad. I would, too, if my mommas brand new bedlinen was wrapped around a naked shepherd in childrens park. The speeches were predictably boring, so everyone was satisfied. They cannot imagine interesting speeches, those small-town folks.
There is a revolution in everyones soul, let your heart speak up….cheesy, aint it? It is song lyrics. You see, I told you about Haydamaky already? Remember? Good. Now, one of theirs married one of ours, a college teacher in Viljandi Cultural Academy, and then he staid here in Estonia, they had a child together, he formed a band, renamed the band (Svjata Vatra, meaning Holy Fire or something), and there ya go – an international and integrationl….frenzy, of sorts.
They´ve gotten me philosophical already. This was not supposed to happen before half way through the third day of the festival. Can´t you just let me enjoy myself without having to THINK? Obviously not. This festival is going on its 13th year. It slowly got big, it has created a few sensations, it has become famous and drawn many young people to folk music (and culture in general). Surely it has caused some short- and long term revolutions in our society. But what next?
Everyone keeps saying: “The festival is not what it once was, the last one was THE last good festival.” They say it every year. So is this event even capable of causing any more revolutions? Or is the fact it has even lasted this long a revolution in itself – in a society that’s oriented to change and novelty? I mean, it is not like folk music is the Polish circus, that tormented the animal-loving town folks with starved poodles and drunken clowns a week later…. Why do these reporters seek for shocking surprises? These tunes aren´t about that. They can´t feel the spirit of it. The most awful thing to me would be asking a folk musician to play some tune he plays best of all, and hear him answer: “I cannot remember….” What else is this music for but remembering, continuity and reliving? So the hell with all those weepy reviews, just let them play.
The third rumination
A chapter of culinary flavor, where you among other things learn that I am a crazy fan with tendency for stalking.
Here I am, sticking to mu Ol´ Faithful program, peacefully going to concerts one by one, until at one point all my plans and perfect order are shattered. I see a hat. A straw hat. It must be, it must be…yes…no…. YES! IT IS! Diederik! He IS here!
Diederik is a younger brother of one of the “veterans” of this festival. They are the Timmermans brothers, and the older one, Stefan, has become somewhat a mascot of the whole event. How wonderful it was, when the Green Stage (a place for newcomers of the event to show their skills and penniless festival goers to listen, or pretend to listen to some music for free) was still in front of the town hall on a small square among rose beds, when the performer was not yet disturbed by the sound of two punk teens making out behind a poplar tree. Stefan was then with a band called Fluxus, just glowing from musical energy (or from the simple fact of having sipped about 16 beers during the last 10 hours)- We saw them again and again, for about 8 years in a row with just one gap, I think it was 1999, and they became like a part of this certain family, the bunch of people who have been there ever since the first event and who are always there, thunder or rain. Man, I think I see them more often than I see some of my blood relatives.
Now, Stefan had not been able to come, but Diederik was here, like an embassador of the Timmermans league, and he had a concertina with him at all times. AND he was easily recognizable by a straw hat. What better thing to do than to stalk him day and night, even wait next to a line to moveable toilets not to miss when he comes out.
The guests, those musicians who are here “just to enjoy the vibes”, as they claim, almost certainly do still give a concert on the so called "Green Stage", and those are something to look forward to – sometimes the highlights of the whole event. But the thing is, you never know WHEN it happens (and sometimes it is in a totally unexpected place, when the Green Stage is too booked), so you have to conciliate following your faithful schedule with ALWAYS having a “tail” after your favorite performer, to know just when and where he takes out his instrument and starts to play with it ….the musical instrument, I mean, moron! And should he notice that you are stalking him, the hazard of stepping on loads of broken glass, or a long and bumpy roll down the hillside (the festival takes place in Castle Hills by the Lake Viljandi), when taking a sudden leap into a bush is always real and present.
Well, I have never been a very good spy. One is bound to notice, that some crazy redhead always stands in the same coffee, soup, toilet etc. lines as he does. But he must also understand I cannot, in no name, miss my nostalgic Belgian waltzes !
Ah yes, I did for a short time loose sight of him, because of one particularly good indoor concert. I had seen Diederik go into the pub with the festival Chief, and I knew they had lots to discuss, so it probably insured me at LEAST two and a half hours. Three, if they went on to compare their tuning….So, deciding I was on the safe side, I went to listen to Juhan Uppin. Well…..safe side, I said? Guess again. He was magnificent. He had 5 of them concertinas there, one charmochka too, and he was so good people kept him there for almost two hours. He played like a devil. People did not let him off the stage, he probably did about 8 extra tunes and the concert got stretched into 1 hour and 45 minutes long musical experience. Oh dog, my spare was just 15 minutes! It made me nervous. What if I missed my waltz? I wouldn´t have dreamed of leaving early though, because it was such a small room and he´d definitely notice, and absolutely NOBODY else was leaving early, so I would be a black sheep and it was the last thing I needed. My reputation wasn’t too spotless.
After bursting through the streets like a taifuun, I saw my hunted man go into the big tent and I, of course, followed. Something strange was going on there. A village band from the 1930ies, with an out-of-tune tuba and a seriously drunk front singer. Blasts from the past? They sang songs about goat hunting in Jerusalem or something. But my target was on the move constantly, so I couldn´t stay. I followed him through a quiet little street behind the pub, admiring the gigantic strawberries in front of the naïve art museum, when I saw somebody familiar. It was the guy, who had unwrapped the shepherd. He was carrying a log (well now, this town reminds me more and more of Twin Peaks, lunatics and weirdos everywhere), an old bicycle wheel and about 5 or 6 huge plastic bowls. Now I get it - he has a laundry fetish. He is going to wash that sheet, that was around the statue. I stood there, staring pretty unpolitely, while he talked to someone through the window. I could separate the words that sounded like “draw a pipe”, “instrument”, “Big Room”, “use all at once”. Oh good heavens, he needs a really big room to wash the sheet in all 6 bowls, while he toys with his instrument and draws a pipe. Water pipe? Goddamn washing maniac. I did not need to hear this.
I got an itch behind my ears for cracking the mind that much about the pipe drawing and laundry fetish. But I had once said to an american indian called Rupert, that the festival was a “gathering of freaks”, and I was actually pretty satisfied to find proof on every step to support my bold statement. Like the time I met the lady who believed she had been born 64 times, and that her very latest incarnation before the current one was a famous Estonian poet Lydia Koidula, who you can find on our 100 crown bill.
She approached me by the teepee I had set up in the Castle Hills in 2004, where children could draw and read poetry. They were mostly drawing mad dogs, helicopters and nuclear power plants though, and reading dirty verses…. “You are doing a sociologically significant job, my dear”, said she, “and I want to award you with this book. “ She had obviously not paid any attention to the content of the drawings, although the 215 of them that were hanging there on laundry strings between fir trees were hard to look past. I looked at the big book that had obviously come from the home printer, only the cover was made in a printing house. The title said “Yes, I was Lydia Koidula in my past life!!!” I had never seen three exclamation points on an actual book, it had always been a part of the internet slang for me. The woman had long gray hair and about the same kind of eyes as my crazy aunt. She continued: “My son was a buddhist lama, and before that he was Karl The Great. Also he has been Tutanchamon, Prometheus and Adam.” Oh cmon, woman……I thanked her and intended to walk away, but she grabbed my hand into a grasp that nearly twisted my arm in half: “Listen, once you have read it, you have to pass this around, you have to become my prophet! If you do not, you will be reborn as a penguin!”
Oh no, how does she know about penguins, I thought ( I had dreamed about penguins every night for two weeks, because the weather was really hot, and I developed a little phobia towards people, who wore black-and-white shirts in honor of one of the bands called (BuB), which also happened to have a bird logo).
Then she left. I had no intention of carrying a brick-heavy book along with me on every concert, so I left it in the teepee, where I thought the hippies probably would use it as a fire starter. As I discovered later that was a fools hope.
Later I noticed the same book in a very respected bookstore on Castle Street. I took a peak into it, and I realized she had gone crazy because her husband had cheated on her and she was obsessed with getting even with “The whores, the bitches and the sluts, also the bimbos, chicks, babes, blonds, Lolitas and witches.” She meant to “have them burn in the eternal wheel of reincarnation with horrible things around them…” and because she had been “Alexander the Great AND Elisabeth I”, she knew the “art of war and all kinds of poisons”.
OK, the concentration of lunatics in this town can really distract a person. Where was I, originally? Oh yeah – stalking. ………. Lunatics, eh? And who am I?
I got lucky. When I passed the Green Stage, Diederik was writing something down on the program board. Hah! He set a time! …”19.30., Saturday”. Phhf, for the rest of the night I can be at ease. ...It IS friday...is it not?
I nearly went mad at the scent of raspberries that everyone was eating on one midnight concert. I love raspberries, but I had no idea where they had bought them. I should have found out though, because a week later they would be 50 crowns a box instead of 25 of present time. I left early, because I didn’t want anyone to see me drool. Although the hours weren´t late yet, only around 01: 30, I decided to go home, because I felt cold. Passing the big electronic clock-thermometer near the bus station which said “12 C”, I knew, why I felt like my toes planned to abandon me and run home like greased lightnings to tuck under cover and use up all the heat before I got there myself.
My mind must have sharpened up from the cold though, because I managed to find the house key I lost last summer. It was hanging with the help of a paper clip in the lemon bush. Great! At least this time I didn’t leave it in my moms care. The last time she was supposed to put the key in my black tennis shoe. She did, too, except she locked the tennis shoe up inside, so all that cunning plan was for nothing.
The Fourth Rumination,
With some giving up and some boredom, but all in all naughty.
Going down the Food Street on Saturday I am deep in my thoughts, because the face of a hungarian violist is constantly in front of my eyes. He was a spitting image of Sylvester Stallone. Thus I step on pretty much everyones toes with not even the slightest attempt to apologize. Fortunately I recognize sleezy tabloid journalists in most of the people, whose feet I terrorize, and I don´t need to feel sorry. Besides - it is not my fault that they are all storming in the wrong direction like a herd of african buffalos.
I have known some intolerable rudeness on a few festivals. One year, when we were also in a teepee, there was a guy, who came in in the middle of our quiet get-together with some south estonian singers, and he just WOULDN’T STOP TALKING. Bla-bla-bla-bla, 4 and a half hours straight, and we couldn’t shut him up. I was too tired to throw him out. But when he said “Never drink any vodka, people, it makes you vicious!” and I replied, that he has to thank his luck then that we HAVEN´T drunk any, he got insulted and left.
We could all use a lesson of good manners from the Russian Kvartet Ural, who were wearing black sweaters, red ties and roses on their chest together with heavy makeup and white gloves, and they were standing up and bowing after every tune they played. I guess they were in their mind on an imperial matine rather than a Mid-Estonian open air folk music festival.
Our own russian band Suprjadki does not go over the top with “polite-and-dainty”. They rock us out of our socks and make sweat drip from the big tents´ ceiling. In the heart of that frenzy I spot Diederik again, approaching the sound and lighting desk, and whispering something in the operators´ ear. Soon we have wild disco lights going around the dance floor….Well, Diederik, you live in the wrong decade today…..But I would never have thought that you´d go as far as to include Go-Go girls into your own half-an-hour performance on the green stage. Go-go girls and a concertina? Well, it was certainly…inventive.
Now, you think because I have heard my belgian waltzes I stop following him? Hah, think again. Did Hannibal stop eating brains?
Diederik was not the only one, who had a wave of nostalgia taking over him. The bulgarians had something on their guitars that took me back into the year 1991 – heart-shaped stickers with some writing in cyrillica. My dad went to Bulgaria with the mens´ choir then, and for some weird reason they were all forced to take along a whole box of those stickers. Maybe the writing on them meant something important, like “Don´t eat Chernobõl tomatos”, or “Wash your teeth before you kiss a random stranger”, but did they honestly think anyone here could read it, whatever it meant? However, the gray-haired bassist of those bulgarians had his green “baby” all covered with rather naïve and childish stickers. They were making very good music though.
It was pretty late in the evening when I realized I have not eaten anything nor had any coffee, but it was essential cause the nightclub was going to be rough.
When it comes to eating, I remember a year when the punk people ate hay. Honest dog. Chief had some hay brought in front of the Green Stage for sitting, but on midday it was gone, and some skinny punks and goths were in its place. There was as many punk and goth people that year as there was snails. They sat in the blackcurrant bushes with a devilish grin, and destroyed all of my cabbages and salad. I mean the snails did all that, not the goths, although you never know, what you might expect from those.
My mind was so set on coffee and food, that I rush through the crowd, my bag being brutally squished among people standing in lines. And then I remembered I had a fresh, neat CD in that bag! I struggled to pull my bag out from between two fat gentlemen with biker gears, and sticked my hand in the bag. Ah thank you, Chief, it is there, intact. The bask musician Goenaga may sing like a chica, but there is something in his tunes that you never get tired of. It is essential for me, because I tend to play music in waves of obsession, rewinding and listening to one and the same album 38 times in a row. Later Goenagas´ record proves to be worth every cent, because it stays in my CD player for two weeks. So there is absolutely no bottom in the salesgirls remark “ Oh I know, he is soooooooo cute, EVERYONE buys his cd just for that!” Not this girl, hear you! I know quite many much cuter guys, but they can´t even play the comb. I am not saying that I can…in the kindergarten I DID play the triangle better than anyone, and I have a coconut shaker for rain spells and stuff, but that´s pretty much it.
That the coconut shaker does in fact work has been proved by yours truly. I sat inside the teepee, shaking it randomly and talking to a friend of mine. Suddenly the clear blue sky went all dark with thunder clouds and it started pouring rain, to which I reacted by storming out and starting to collect all the drawings, so they wouldn’t soak. Mu mom kept repeating, how the rain will only last a few moments, although one could have watered a whole greenhouse with the waterfall from her nose.. Half an hour later she was inside, still squeezing water out of her hair, and the rain lasted till 11 o´clock.
You are lucky! The Fifth, the last rumination,
Where quite a few mysteries get solved, ends of revolution theories get tied and some Last Minute Folk Sensations are experienced ... and some melancholic, confusing thoughts trouble me
I am vigorously dissolving my nearly unreadable program, trying to figure out where I was supposed to go, what was I supposed to see…. Guitars, norwegians, Ro:Toro [rootoru= straw pipe in estonian] Like whatta…? STRAW PIPE! Oh hell, THE straw pipe! NOT “draw a pipe!” This is a joke I do not want to miss, I can finally find out what the deal is with that laundry guy.
Thank goodness, he has no laundry fetish at all, those are just regular South Estonian bowl instruments, tuned by Faith to play in sauna style. And the pipes are naturally BAGpipes. I am so relieved, that I loose sense of time, standing and smiling on a concert of some american blokes, who have the greatest variety of instruments of probably all musicians on this festival. Well, last years´ story contest…and the one before…I KNOW I am never there to collect the prizes, but as sorry as I am I cannot make it this time either. Everyone is probably there, listening to the festival Chief Ando and his friends play tunes and have fun, but these guys here need an audience too! Where are you going, you all?…. I stay in the tent with the americans for 10 more minutes from sense of duty, as a festival veteran, who doesn’t just run after the “popular choices”.
When I read the newspapers after the festival, they all write about “the biggest ovations”, “the main attractions”, “Very famous in their home land” etc, etc. But nobody writes about why you need to clap and give ovations to the big names. You have to BEG them like that to play MORE. Even if it is just one or two extra tunes, pre-picked and well rehearsed. But the kind of musicians like Diederik and these Barnstormers from USA, they will play more just because they see you enjoying their tunes – AND NOT LEAVING. They play stuff that they had no intention of playing, they browse their memory to find something we would not expect. They play out of the blue and it is in the hands of fate that the instrument wouldn´t go out of tune. The true folk music is not the kind that you listen to sitting down, clapping like you were in a goddamn concert hall. And when there is such a small number of people on a concert, it would be weird to stand in the back of the tent. You have NO CHOICE but to get VERY CLOSE. And might I say, I did get close with the roots of american folk music. I understand it a lot better now. As a matter of fact I had tried to go to the more popular concert, but the crowd was too thick to get through. And I had no machete. To let out a revolution, you must let your heart speak up. Why did you not stay? Maybe this particular revolution doesn’t stand for your interests. Go find your own then.
In the nightclub I got into a strange mood. I wanted to cry so bad, although I am a person who never cries. Heavy heart, melancholy, sadness and slight disappointment. At what? I did not know. I sneaked out of the tent and almost stumbled along the street towards home. Am I really expected to this festival the next time? Where are all my friends, why aren´t they here, when I am? Why is this thing not in common between us? Am I invisible to these people? Most of all, the intolerable thought of the emptiness and silence in this town tomorrow, when everybody is gone….
On half way I got mad at myself. You fool, you bloody fool, why are you sitting here sobbing like a brat, go back, take the last of it – the party is not over yet! Go on, get going, you silly ass! It always help to scold yourself in public.
The next day in town was as apocalyptic as I had predicted. No one. Not a single soul. Then a guy with a backbag come buzzing down the street on a strange little vehicle….like a crossbreed of a childs´ bike and a garden cart.
There was no trace left of the strange moodiness of last night. Maybe it came from eating raw gooseberries…..
The “Comes after the chapters in books but I do not remember its name”
Over and out. My story, the festival, almost the end of summer. What can I say? See ya.
Post Scriptum: I did say all mysteries get solved, but there is one that is still bugging me. What happened to Diederik´s acordeon on the Ando and Friends concert. It suddenly went silent. I fear the buldog that was lost by some festival guest and left in the office had got his teeth on it. The wonders of life…..
(yes, someone lost a buldog; I am surprised no one lost a goat named Alfonzo).
Ma kirjutasin ümber ja kombineerisin sest keegi tahtis inglise keeles lugeda.