Robert Burns poems translated into Estonian released as album

The 12-track CD of Rabbie Burns' poems, set to music and translated into Estonian, was released Sunday.
The 12-track CD of Rabbie Burns' poems, set to music and translated into Estonian, was released Sunday. Source: ERR

A collection of recorded ballads based on the poems of Scotland's national bard Robert Burns (1759-1796), translated into Estonian, has been released, and performed, by Estonian musicians, coinciding with Saturday's Burns' night.

The collection, compiled by the Estonian-Scottish Cultural Society (Eesti Šoti Kultuuriselts), was presented at Haapsalu Cultural Center on Sunday afternoon, ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Eike Urke, head of the society, said part of the charm of Burns's work is that its generic human themes are still very much talked about over 200 years after Burns death.

"There's one about women, another about love; here is something about taxes – the themes affect each and every one of us, perhaps very broadly," Urke explained.

Ilona Aasvere, Tiit Kikas, Peeter Rebane and noted musician, performer and actor Marko Matvere recorded the album; Tõnu Timm replaced the latter at Suynday's concert. 

Kullo Vende translated the poems from Scots into Estonian.

Ilona Aasvere, one of the musicians, noted a diverse selection had been assembled.

"There are slower ballads, but also more sprightly tunes /.../ Tiit and Peeter have made some extremely tasteful arrangements. I am very happy to have them on this record," Aasvere said.

Eike Urke noted that the Burns canon is so vast and rich that the 12 songs presented on the album were but a cross-section.

"If there are parallels to be made, Burns is to the Scots as [nineteenth century poet Lydia] Koidula is to the Estonians. There are over 450 songs in total, however. If you consider there were 12 on this record, there's a whole lot more to do, if I want to cover some others," Urke added.

The album's presentation and performance was the culmination of the annual Haapsalu Scottish Days, which invited audience members to get up and dance to some of the jigs and reels.

Folk combo Kukerpillid had previously performed Burns ballads, according to ERR's culture portal. Born near Ayr, southwest Scotland, Rabbie Burns later lived in Edinburgh, then farmed in Dumfriesshire. He spent his last years in Dumfries town itself. As well as being a poet and lyricist, Burns collected folk songs from across his native Scotland. The melodies many of his poems have been set to, most famously "Auld Lang Syne", "Scots Wha Hae" and "Comin' Thro' the Rye", were existing traditional folk tunes. Other poems have been set to more contemporary melodies, including those which appeared in the movie score of the 1973 British horror classic "The Wicker Man".

The original "Aktuaalne kaamera" segment (in Estonian) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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