Bored of trying to improve your Estonian by using tired traditional Estonian language teaching techniques? Why not try something a bit different like learning some songs to practice Estonian? Learning a language through a country’s songs, just like learning by watching a country’s movies, is a fun and enjoyable way to get a better grasp of any language. In this blog, we will take a look at some methods of using songs to practice and learn Estonian and have a quick look at some of the more popular styles of Estonian music.
An Easy Way To Practice Your Estonian
Instead of taking an Estonian language course, a great way of getting to grips with Estonian vocabulary, pronunciation, sentence structure and the rhythm of the language is by listening to songs sung in Estonian.
Begin by finding singers you like listening to and getting hold of a collection of songs you will enjoy learning. This is easy to do on websites like Youtube. It is a good idea to find videos that have subtitles in your language so you have a better understanding of what the song is about.
Listen to a song several times, and ideally over several days, until you think you might know it well enough to sing along. As soon as you can sing along you have started to speak Estonian!
Next, try listening to the song and writing down the lyrics. This will help you learn them and improve your reading and writing skills. And finally, find a karaoke version of the song to sing along to so it is just you singing the words.
History Of Estonian Music
The history of Estonian music dates back centuries. It is said the ancient Estonian warriors would break into song the eve before battle as a way of boosting morale and plunging fear into the hearts of their enemies. Estonian folk songs can be split into two historical periods. The first is the runic songs, traditional folk songs shared by all of the Finnic peoples. The second is the rhythmic Estonian folk songs that replaced the runic folk songs in the 18th century.
Traditionally, Estonian folk music took the form of epic poetry. Often sung by women, these songs were ballads, idioms, work songs, and sung legends and traditions. Although this type of music died out by the 20th century, there are still pockets of Estonia like Kihnu and Setomaa where the tradition is kept alive.
Estonian Folk Instruments
Once popular were instruments like the vilepill and the karjapasun. These were wind instruments that the shepherds would make and play. However, they have since been replaced by more recognizable musical instruments such as the concertina, zither, fiddle, and accordion.
The Herring Song
Also known as The Herring Lived on Dry Land, this traditional Estonian folk song remains popular and tells of how the herring was once a creature that, a bit like a cat, was kept to catch and eat vermin. According to the ancient song. one of these herrings was kept on board a sailing ship that was carrying a cargo of salt. In those days salt was very expensive.
Unfortunately, the herring had a taste for salt and began to devour the ship’s cargo. So enthusiastic was the creature for the salt that it ate through the hull and the ship sank. The god of the sea became so cross with the herring that he declared it would have to live in the sea forever. The salt from the sunken boat is also said to be why there is salt in seawater today.
20th-Century Estonian Music
Under Soviet occupation, and the Soviet regime, Eastern Bloc ethnic folk art was encouraged to create a singing revolution. In 1969, Leigarid was formed and signaled the birth of Estonian ring dancing. Herbert Tampere, an expert in runic songs and folk music released an album celebrating the culture entitled Eesti rahvalaule ja pillilugusid, or Estonian folk songs and instrumental pieces. By the 1980s, several music festivals were set up across Estonia as a reaction to the demand for more freedom of expression. Included in these were CIOFF, or International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts, Viru Säru, and Baltica. It is worth looking up a festival timetable if you are visiting Estonia.
The twentieth century also saw the rise of Estonian classical music with composers such as Veljo Tormis, Eduard Tubin, Lepo Sumera, Mart Saar, Artur Lemba, Artur Kapp, and Heino Eller. Also popular is the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir as is choral singing and choral arrangements. Hortus Musicus has given concerts around the world and is an ensemble created by Tallin State Music Academy alumnus, Andres Mustonen. The ensemble celebrates medieval music and has a repertoire including organum, Gregorian chanting, motets, choral music, and liturgic hymns.
There are several Estonian composers working today who have managed to modernize traditional music. These include Kirile Loo, Coralie Joyce, and Olev Muska. Among the best-known Estonian indie-rock bands are Ewert and The Two Dragons who released the multi-award-winning album Good Man Down in 2011. Vanilla Ninja is an all-female Estonian rock band that has enjoyed success across Europe. Albums worth looking up in order to learn Estonian include Traces Of Sadness, Blue Tattoo, and Love Is War. Among the other bands worth seeking out who could help you learn Estonian through music are Vaiko Eplik, Trad.Attack!, Andres Kõpper and Kerli.
Some Estonian Music Vocab To Help You Learn
Now we have explored some of the best of Estonian music and its history, here is a list of useful words you can practice to enhance your Estonian word bank.
Learn More Estonian Songs With Ling App
If you are interested in other fun ways of learning Estonian, why not download the Ling App at Google Play or App Store? Ling App is packed with fun ways of learning such as quizzes, games and a whole lot more!