Song For The Sacred: How Anna Hints Opens The Gates To Estonia

 

A duet with the Estonian singer reveals her connection with Nature, the core of cultural values, music, folklore and living. 

By Azaan Khan

Anna Hints, a singer from Estonia, and us, Trippy Sama, a world music collaborative, have unravelled two cultures together, through our music and conversations. Between melodies and sound, we have been able to discover two countries through words and expression. Our concert with Anna, earlier this year, was an amalgamation of Indian classical music and Estonian folklore. After the concert, I was packing my musical instruments, when a conversation with Anna gently strummed my memory. The conversation was from one of our rehearsals, where we shared ideas on cultures — ideas we would be able to portray through music. What started as a casual chat to make better music, became an eye-opening exchange for all of us; a conversation I am unlikely to forget. Our conversation for you.

“Estonia to India, Tallin to Delhi, a quiet, peaceful spacious town, to a bustling, loud, busy city. What were your thoughts when you landed?”

The things that hit me — heavy air and traffic jams. Delhi alone has more then 17 times the population of all of Estonia. Though the pollution and the crowds were overwhelming, it immediately taught me that the clean air we breathe and the stretches of forest we have, cannot be taken for granted. It is a luxury we in Estonia are very lucky to have.

“In India, our history and customs are deeply rooted in nature — be it Ayurveda, our Raags, or our festivals. Today, it seems that the ancient customs are being forgotten, and the regard for Nature is diminishing. Is it the same in Estonia?”

Yes, Estonian culture also originates from Nature, our customs also revolve around the cycles of Mother Earth, but they are not forgotten. Though, through urbanisation, some people have lost this connection, Estonians still respect and worship Nature. We have sacred stones, sacred trees, sacred waters, where people still go and pray. It is also due to the harsh and unrelenting climate that Estonians always remember that humans cannot control Nature, but must live in harmony with it. We develop our cities, and our towns, but this harmony is always the cornerstone of our progress.

 

 

“Can you describe some of the rituals and traditions you follow?”

Our country had strong ancient traditions, which have been passed on through the generations, by way of stories and songs. I am lucky that my grandmother passed on a lot of this knowledge and culture to me. I go to pray in the sacred  forest, where my ancestors have been going for centuries. Some of the songs I sing are ancient Runo melodies – Regilaul. These songs are based on their lyrics, which are believed to have certain mystical powers. Some invoke ancestors, while some help us communicate with the spirits of nature, seek their advice or forgiveness. Disrespect these songs and you feel uncomfortable symptoms, even physical weakness. Ancient healers have used these sacred melodies to heal, but one has to be humble and have wisdom to use them.

 

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Blurred boundaries: Anna with her co-musicians.

 

On a lighter note, there is another very interesting tradition – of the smoke sauna. The structure itself is believed to be alive, and it is meant to cleanse, not only your body, but also your soul. The culture is to sweat in the heat, and then relieve your body by jumping into sub zero ice pools. It has been inducted into UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

“Are there similarities in Indian and Estonian folk music?”

Indian and Estonian music use different paths to reach the same destination. Unlike India, there are not many instruments in Estonian folk music, other then the fiddle and accordion, used mainly to play Polka. Ancient flute instruments are also rarely played now, so the belief of our music is based strongly in the words. We believe that one can even make it rain using words and chants. This is not very different from India, right? India has plenty of different folk instruments, but as far back as Tansen, even in India, it was believed that raags and tunes can bring changes in the weather and in the emotions of the listener. This is the fundamental similarity in the energy emanating from two of the most ancient schools of music. We share this energy and we can make beautiful music together.

“Collaboration should widen the scope of not only our music, but also our thoughts. What can our cultures borrow from each other?”

We could learn about a deep humbleness from India. Meditation in ones art form, connection with the divine, and being proud of ones roots. In Estonia, a lot of the youth is too affected by the West, the popular culture and its imitation, I hope our youth can stay grounded. India should learn to live with Nature, remember that age old connection, and make it a part of their day to day lives. It is important to respect Nature as well as nurture it. For me, this is a continual experience of how little ones gender, religion or race matter. We come from different cultures, but we all share the same home, Mother Earth.

 

 

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The blend: voice, motifs and a microphone.

 

— Azaan Khan is a singer-songwriter. His curiosity for culture and hunger for travel fuel his creative expression. In a constant search for balance, from the oldest of traditions to the most cutting edge experiments, Azaan is on a journey to push boundaries.

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