Estonian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mari Kalkun has announced details of her seventh album, and first since signing to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records; the album, called “The Stories of Stonia”, will be released on 7 July 2023 and is preceded by the single “Tõistmuudu” (“Otherwise”).
Co-produced by English folk musician Sam Lee, most of the songs on “The Stories of Stonia” begin with Kalkun’s voice – around which she builds the soundscapes of the song, mainly featuring kannel, piano, electronics and vocal overdubs, plus the striking trumpet and tuba of Daniel Herskerdal on “When the Stones Were Still Soft”.
“The motivation for this album is my own curiosity to go back to a very old layer of tradition and imagine what my ancestors would have thought and sung about the world in an era of skyscrapers, steel and metal,” Kalkun said in a statement. “The central topic of the album is humanity’s controversial relationship with nature and whether the old runo songs (centuries old Estonian folk songs – editor) are able to speak out about over-consumption and climate change.”
“Tõistmuudu” is the first single to be lifted from “The Stories of Stonia”. Beginning with a spacious piano introduction surrounding Mari Kalkun’s voice and building to a passionate crescendo, the song seeks an escape from the “craziness of the world today”, longing for a different kind of life “more in tune with nature”, her representative said. “It is also an homage to all the tradition bearers and indigenous lifestyle in Estonia and around the world.”
Singing in Võro
On the album Kalkun sings in Võro – the language of her native region of Võrumaa (Võru County), which is estimated to have only 75,000 speakers. “Võro has very old layers of tradition that connect me to my ancestors,” she explained, adding that she sees Võro as a threatened “microcosm”.
She also sees Estonian as a threatened language, spoken by only 1.1 million people. For her, these languages, and others around the world, are part of the natural environment. “Languages are like nature – fragile ecosystems,” Kalkun noted, referring to it as one of the central messages in her music.
“The Stories of Stonia” is out on 7 July 2023 on Real World Records, available on CD, LP and all digital platforms. The first single, “Tõistmuudu” was released on 21 April 2023. Kalkun will present the album at the WOMAD festival in the UK in July; concerts are also planned in Estonia, Hungary, Canada, Norway, Macedonia and Belgium.
Kalkun’s third album, “Ilmamõtsan”, was included among the Guardian’s ten best world music albums in 2018.
Real World Records is a British record label specialising in world music. It was founded in 1989 by the English singer-songwriter and a former Genesis frontman, Peter Gabriel.