Meet Eesti Laul 2016 participants Zebra Island

Zebra Island (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)
Liam Clark
2/15/2016 2:17 PM
Category: Entertainment

The 2016 edition of Eesti Laul kicked off last Saturday with the first semi-final. The eighth act to perform was four piece electronic band Zebra Island.

The band Zebra Island was so named because of the mixture of light and dark themes and sounds in their music.

"Our music has a lot to do with duality, with a mix of light and dark. So for me, a zebra with its black and white makes a perfect harmonic animal," said singer Helina Risti.

"Zebra Island is this magical place where we take our listeners to, although there is actually a real place called Zebra Island near Madagascar!"

Zebra Island formed when keyboardist Rasmus Lill met Risti through some friends and the two joined musical forces.

Lill, who had already been a member of another band, decided he wanted to make some music that was a bit more danceable.

Initially just a duo, Zebra Island's ranks expanded when the desire to perform live necessitated more members.

Zebra Island has undergone a number of changes in line up during the four years that it has existed, but currently includes guitarist Ivar Mägi and drummer Caspar Salo.

The band has toured extensively throughout the Baltics and has even received airplay on BBC Radio 3.

Their Eesti Laul entry 'How Many Times' came about as a challenge to the group to create something specifically for the contest.

"We did it especially for Eesti Laul, but we did not sacrifice anything. We made it exactly our way, but it was definitely crafted for an Eesti Laul audience," Risti said.

"Some songs you work on for years but if you have a goal with a deadline, then it is very good for creativity," she added.

Zebra Island have often been referred to as having "intelligent music" with strong messages in the lyrical content and 'How Many Times' continues that trend.

"The song is about how we always fall and lose, and as long as we get up and never give up, then we have not truly lost," said Risti before adding, "It's also about accepting that life is always changing."

It is this constant state of change that has driven much of Zebra Island's musical direction. Risti proudly proclaims that Zebra Island's previous work is very different to their current music and that even on a single album there is much diversity.

However the themes of duality are still present in all of their music.

"It is very important [for us] that these two worlds come together. Our music is not always easy listening, but the message is always there," Risti said.

"But I think How Many Times is easier to listen to than most."

Like many artists participating in Eesti Laul, the goal of Zebra Island is not necessarily to win the ticket to the Eurovision Song Contest and is instead about exposure.

"We have been doing this band for such a long time and while it's nice to do it for yourself, it's also nice to do it for other people, and maybe someone will like it," Risti said.

"It's also a great experience to make a good concert with just one song!"

Risti had a number of positive opinions about some of her fellow competitors, stating a strong enjoyment of Cartoon feat. Kristel Aaslaid's entry which she referred to as having "Eurovision potential" and complimenting the voice of Jüri Pootsmann.

The biggest praise was reserved for Mick Pedaja, who she expressed a great desire to meet.

"I like him a lot," she said with a giggle.

Unfortunately Zebra Island were unable to secure a place in the Eesti Laul final, after finishing in the bottom half of the semi-final.

However, this turn of events did little to dent Risti's chearful demeanor.

"Oh well!" she exclaimed after the show with a cheerful shrug.

Zebra Island now intend to take some time off and record an album which they already have "around 20 tracks for" before embarking on a yet unannounced tour outside of Estonia at the end of Spring.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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