In “Parasol Elektroniczny. Rumors from the Eastern underground”, Felix Kubin leads us on a tour of underground sound production in Eastern Europe.

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The first episode of the “Parasol Elektroniczny. Rumors from the Eastern underground” series is an exception in two regards. Firstly, as I happened to be on a journey to Tallinn at that time, Felix Kubin conducted the interviews with the artists himself. This task is usually carried out by specific umbrella agents. The second unusual feature is its duration. At over 80 minutes, it could almost be considered a double feature. However, television pilot programs are often longer than their follow-ups, and I don’t see any reason why this should not apply to audio features too. Also, the Estonian episode is a good introduction to the vibrancy and variety of the Eastern European underground scene.

Each episode of the series features some recurring topics and sections: a new national anthem composed by one of the featured artists, introductions to instruments and favorite sounds, miniature audio diaries offering “a day in the life” impressions, spoken word in the local language, descriptions of some local psychological and economic survival tactics and discussions around the “symptoms of the East”.

“We don’t know if we are East or West. We want to be more like a Scandinavian country”, says post-punk diva Kiwa, one of Estonia’s most famous underground artists, who still survives on a bare minimum. Indeed, with its small Protestant population and outlandish language, Estonia has much in common with Finland. Still, there is a strong connection to other Eastern European countries, particularly in terms of their shared political history. Artists and musicians like Kiwa, Taavi Tulev and Aivar Tõnso have lived through the intense political changes that shook their country: from Russian occupation to independence, democracy, capitalism and a right-wing government. Other artists were too young to witness these changes.

The political and economic uncertainties have also led to the emergence of a rich artistic resistance. In their brutal propaganda satire “Choose order”, the radical film group ESTO TV comments on the growing nationalism in Estonia. The members of the group weren’t afraid to infiltrate political gatherings of the right-wing party, pretending to be their truest and most radical followers.

Although artists like Andres Lõo and Kiwa laconically assert that there is “no market for contemporary art”, Estonia has a blossoming music scene that is full of optimism. As most of the musicians don’t have a job, issues concerning crisis and security become irrelevant. Or, as the musician Rainer Jancis put it: “We can lose our lives but we can’t lose our jobs.”

Featured artists

Aivar Tõnso
Katrin Essenson
Raul Keller
Sequoia (Lotte Jürjendal & Katrin Rätte)
Taavi Tulev
Andres Lõo
Tencu (Andres Tenusaar)
Rainer Jancis