Global Estonians: singer-songwriter Liis Hirvoja (London/UK)

2,400 years ago the philosopher Socrates claimed: “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world (kosmopolitês).” In 1937 Ernest Hemingway wrote in his novel To Have and Have Not: “In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found.”  Fast forward to AD 2012 and new webzine EstonianWorld is born – to explore the impact, developments and movements of new generation of Estonians, and to exchange views and ideas. In order to do it more dynamically, we are now introducing a new feature – Global Estonians. We talk to diverse people in different cities, countries, continents. The Estonians we are talking to, are not necessarily famous or hugely successful yet – rather, it’s a place to exchange experiences and information – something which we can all hopefully relate to in some ways or another. Our first “Global Estonian” is Liis Hirvoja, London-based singer-songwriter.


Liis, where are you based and how long have you been there?

I am based in London. I`ve been living here for two years now.

What made you to choose London?

My lifelong dream has been becoming a professional musician. In order to do so I figured that I need an equivalent education. My ambition has never let me settle for less than everything, so I decided to go where the modern music history is made – either the United States or the United Kingdom. In the end I realised that I don`t want to go too far from Estonia and luckily got offered a place at London Centre of Contemporary Music.

What is it like to live in London and what challenges have you had?

It definitely is a challenge. At times overwhelming, but always exciting. It`s funny how in a city so big, in the most crowded places, you can feel the loneliest ever. That has been difficult for me. I’m very attached to my home, family and friends. I have to keep myself real busy in order to forget how much I miss them. Finding a home and a job is as hard as anywhere, I guess. But I am sure that it’s all worth it in the end. It feels right there. My heart will always belong to Estonia, but England is where I have to be, at least for now.

How do you make your living and what has been your best experience in your work life?

I wish I could already say that I make my living by making music. Unfortunately, that`s not the case. YET! I’m singing in an experimental pop band called POCA and we are gradually making progress – in spring we achieved a place in semi-finals of unsigned band competition called Live & Unsigned 2012 Regional Finals. Otherwise I`ve done all the typical jobs for a young person who`s just starting out. I`ve been a waitress, a barista, an au pair. At the moment, I give some piano lessons for children and work in an interior shop at the weekends. To be fair, I`ve enjoyed most of my jobs. The working experience in these fields is usually useful and educating for many ways.

What motivates you in life?

Music and people. I am motivated by the thought of where I could be one day, if I work hard and keep on doing what I love the most with passion and dedication. And I am motivated by people whose creativity is closest to me and whom I haven`t necessarily met yet. It`s wonderful to think who you might end up meeting with and what are the influences over the years. I`m motivated by life itself. It just keeps on surprising me and I want to see more!

Have you had any setbacks?

Yes, of course. Anyone who claims not to have had any, either lies or not really living in a real life. I think you have to have setbacks to find out who you are, to grow towards what you want to be. I have had setback related to people, related to money, releated to personal unconfidence. In the end, we wouldn`t have it any other way.

What’s your recipe for success?

Hard work, passion and timing.

Do you still have a connection with Estonia?

Absolutely! I go home as often as I can. Until now, I`ve managed to do it four times a year for at least two weeks at a time. I started loving Estonia even more after I left. They say that a little absence makes a heart grow fonder, right. You could even say that distance does. But I definitely plan to involve Estonia in my musical pathway as well. I will try my best to make everyone back home proud.

Is there anything special you miss about Estonia?

The obvious answer – black bread. And I miss meeting familiar faces randomly on the street every day.

Your future plans?

Music, music, music!


You can find information on POCA`s music:

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About the author: Silver Tambur

Silver Tambur is the cofounder and Editor-in-Chief of Estonian World. He has previously studied journalism at the University of Tartu, and politics and society at the Birkbeck College, University of London. Silver has been the editor at the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s news service in English, as well as contributing for the Business Sense magazine in the UK, Deutsche Welle and Radio New Zealand. You can also follow him on Twitter and like his page on Facebook. You can write to Silver at