The second in this series on the Sharq Taronalari Festival in Samarkand is comprised of two separate performances by Duo Ruut, one in the vast Registan stage, and the other in a small corner of the hotel where the duo were staying.
This was my 4th visit to the Sharq Taronalari Festival and I came expecting to do some troubleshooting. From past experience I had found that it was probably not going to be possible to get the audio from the festival producers, so I had better try to snag some private performances if at all possible. Hence the video (sans audience noise) that follows the video of their performance at the Registan. Do keep watching!
To backtrack a bit, the festival takes place in Samarkand Uzbekistan, and is billed as an international music festival. Its main attraction for me is that one gets to hear a wide variety of music from the east, particularly Central Asia and its immediate environs. But it also welcomes music from other countries more far afield, from the USA to the island of Fiji.
Getting there is always an arduous — but well worth it– journey, and I met the duo during a very long layover in Moscow while en route to the festival. Katariina Kivi and Ann-Lisett Rebane were traveling with fellow Estonian Madli-Liis Parts, VIP delegate to the festival, and over coffee she explained a bit of the duo’s background. The artists have been friends since childhood, and both have a long background in music. She explained what she felt made their music special and a good choice to represent Estonia on stage. After listening to them, I was inclined to agree with her.
There is a great deal of interest in the old Estonian traditional music; its revival really took off after Soviet control was overthrown. Now according to the duo there are databases that are fairly groaning with transcriptions and texts of these ancient songs. They tend to be runic in feeling, with simple repeated melodies that can be trance-invoking. So as Kateriina and Ann-Lisett explained to me, there are many young bands mining this vein of music, and they are just one of them. But they are unusual in that they both play on the same instrument and are using extended techniques to play it. The Estonian kannel is primarily a plucked folk instrument, but these two young ladies –both of whom have studied music academically—had not played it until they found one, and decided to see what would happen if they approached it fresh. Their outside-the-box attitude here yields unexpectedly sophisticated and orchestral arrangements. These sounds push the ancient texts into a contemporary sensibility, making them far more accessible and appealing. It is why they are emphatic in calling what they do folk BASED music.
It is refreshing to witness the rapport that these two very young women share as they sit facing each other over the kannel, look directly at each other’s faces and creating their music. I have often said that to sing with someone is to love them, and there is a great ease and affection that is apparent as they perform. It is infectious, and despite their own on stage invitation to “feel the cold Northern wind” of Estonia in their music, it was very warmly received indeed, by an audience that was probably hearing this kind of music for the very first time.