Estonian Music Awards 2016: Hello to tomorrow? (1)
The Estonian Music Awards might be a chance for the success stories of the previous year to celebrate their work, but this year's event held a number of signs of what, and who, will be big in the years to come. Though a few established artists took most of the awards on offer, they came from across the musical spectrum.
The big winner was Elina Born. The singer, best-known internationally for duetting with Stig Rästa on last year's Eurovision entry "Goodbye to Yesterday", took home four awards. For her album of catchy, youthful pop, Born won Best Debut Album, Best Pop Album, and Female Artist of the Year; Song of the Year went to "Goodbye to Yesterday", which might not have won Eurovision for Estonia, but created a huge buzz on social media around Europe because of an intriguing narrative that seemed to hint at dark goings-on, without ever feeling the need to explain everything. Born's success was the result of several years of hard work with Rästa, who co-wrote and produced her album.
Folk is having a moment in Estonia, too; some would say it never went away, but Curly Strings' huge success at 2015's Music Awards seemed a rubber-stamping of traditional music's new-found popularity. This year, it was the turn of Trad.Attack to be honored for their work. The folktronica trio, who use reels to create hypnotic song structures that have elements of dance music and even some rock-inspired power chords, won Best Folk Album, Group of the Year and, beating the likes of Ewert & the Two Dragons, Best Album, for "Ah!".
Ewert Sundja and his bandmates won Best Rock Album for their third release, "Circles", which further established the indie tunesmiths as a big draw internationally. While the band, which has become accustomed to performing at large venues and is regularly held up as a flagbearer for Estonian talent, seemed confident in the cavernous Nordea Concert Hall, other acts approached the microphone with a little more apprehension.
One of them was Best Classical Album winner Martin Kuuskmann, who seemed humble in victory. Another was Estonian Superstar 2015 winner Jüri Pootsmann. His self-titled Estonian-language debut album has proved a hit nationally, and Pootsmann was gracious in accepting the Best Male Artist award. Introduced by Tallinn Music Week CEO Helen Sildna as someone it was easy to fall in love with, Pootsmann recounted how, a year previously, he had been sitting on the couch watching the awards given out, and told his mother it would be nice just to be in the audience. He put his emotions to one side afterwards, performing two tracks from his album which demonstrated an understanding of elegant retro-tinged pop, along the lines of Prefab Sprout.
To close the ceremony, there was a link with Estonian music's past, as Justament was thanked for its Contribution to Estonian Music. In their acceptance speech, the band looked back on their career, reminiscing about their first award, won back in 1981. Will any of the current winners be remembered in 35 years from now? Music is a fickle business, where the latest trend can turn out to have been just a fad, but such was the talent on show, that it seems likely some of the artists will endure.