Monday, February 12, 2007

On culture

This weekend I had two pretty shattering culture-related experience and would like to share those with you.

The first one occurred on Saturday. I was driving through southern Estonia. It was about -20 degrees C, the sun was shining, the road was perfect, the country was all white and I had 320 bhp under my right foot. Even more, I had the CD from Metsatöll and RAM performing works of Veljo Tromis among others in my changer. Let me give you some background. Metsatöll is an Estonian pagan/folk metal band that has gained a considerable following in recent years. They have managed to fuse very sincere and simple, yet powerful, lyrics with oldschool metal sounds that are combined with old natural instruments. Very impressive. RAM is the only professional male choir in the world. Imagine a 50 strong party of men singing of their ancestors, old gods and harsh nordic nature. Veljo Tormis is the man solely responsible for me becoming a metal-head. This happened after I saw his The Curse Upon Iron performed by Tõnu Kaljuste and his choir on TV. If you have not had the pleasure, I suggest you imagine O Fortuna by Carl Orff. Imagine this being performed in dark winter's night by roughly 30 young people clearly enchanted by the whole thing carrying torches and singing around a fire. Insert the most powerful lyrics you can imagine. Add shaman dums. That gives roughly a third of the experience. Having all of those components - RAM, Metsatöll and Tormis - thrown together in a live performance is something that one can't put to words. They did both Litany to Thunder and Curse Upon Iron and I floored it with sun in my back and bitter cold Estonia rushing past. That was just perfect.

The other culture shock I had was related to mr. Tolkien. I got my hands on my old copy of Estonian translation of The Hobbit (1977) on Sunday. It barely resembles a book any more and wears many stains resulting from the nasty habit of reading while eating I had as a kid. The illustrations by Maret Kernumees have defined how Gollum and Smaug looks like for me (considerably different from other illustrations I have seen and totally different from the movie) and perfectly accompany the text. Also, the translation is very good (as opposed to the horror put among us with the Trilogy). I don't know whether this is because of the nostalgic value, the fact that this was the first Estonian book I have read in a long time (being put off by the same horrible translations) or the fact that this is a work of genius, but I swallowed it in a day and enjoyed every last minute of it.

In essence, I got very little done during the weekend but I still immensely enjoyed it.

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