MUHU - Most folk use Estonia’s Muhu Island simply as a gateway to its more prominent neighbor Saaremaa. Driving off the ferry, few travelers even stop their cars before arriving in the bigger island’s capital, Kuressaare.
“But if you turn off from the highway you can discover a lot of special places,” says Villu Veski, a jazz musician, festival promoter and island culture coordinator.
The June 28 – July 1 weekend offers an opportunity to sample Muhu culture. For the eleventh year, Veski will run the Juu Jaab music festival.
For those in the know, Juu Jaab, which features world music from Brazil, the Faroe Islands, Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Estonia, is considered to be Estonia’s best music festival. It’s small – only several hundred people attend – yet it boasts a quality that belies its size.
There are just two stages and a handful of food stalls, and a campfire for late-night gatherings. Held on a large countryside property next to an emu farm, the festival feels disconnected from the outside world.
Veski has toured the world as a jazz musician, and the connections he formed during these troubadour years have helped him lure top class bands to his tiny festival. Last year the renowned Swedish jazz-fusion band Koop flew in for an intimate gig before jetting off to Germany’s massive Roskilde Festival.
“I find that many music festivals are just a large number of concerts, with no real connection between the audience or the musicians. A festival should be a world party for everyone. On Muhu during the festival many people get new friends. It’s a special event,” Veski says.
This year promises to be upbeat, with a huge offering of South American musicians.
“Estonian people have come to love Brazilian music, especially in the last two years. We originally planned a special Brazilian night, but now it will go all weekend.”
But for Veski, the most special performer will be Eivor, a singer from the Faroe Islands with a unique style sometimes likened to Bjork. Veski has been trying to sign Eivor for years and finally managed to convince her to attend.
He also recommends Simone Moreno and Os Lourinhos, a Swedish and Brazilian act that comes from the same family of musicians as Koop.
Juu Jaab isn’t restricted to the festival grounds. Veski has also organized a number of performances in outside venues, such as the nearby Katariina church and the Go Spa in Kuressaare.
For more information and directions, see www.nordicsounds.ee.
Juu Jaab music festival
June 28 - July 1