The Johanson Family

The Johanson Family

The brothers Johanson have been singing together since the 1960’s, their sister Kärt, as the youngest, joined later. Jaak, the eldest, studied at the Drama School at Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Ants and Mart studied philology and biology at the University Tartu. Kärt studied theatre at The Estonian Institute of Humanities (EHI) of Tallinn University. Their professions and activities have varied from actor to theatre director, teacher to chancellor, cultural organiser to crisis counsellor. Music and singing have continued to be our joint space of fellowship to get together, think together and rejoice. We make our own songs, but we also sing the ones that we picked up from our father, mother and grand-parents. We also dive into the legacy of old traditional Runo song which is difficult to bring to the concert-stage, like sean-nos in Ireland it has a quality both unique and timeless.

We like to sing those songs also : On the shores of the Gulf of Finland the ancient Finno-Ugric peoples originated a unique singing tradition, called RUNO-SONG or REGI-LAUL. Old traditional songs of Estonians, Finns, Karelians, Izhorians and Votes constitute a single phenomenon. It is generally believed that this singing tradition, common to the Balto-Finns, started to take shape in the first centuries of the common era or perhaps a bit earlier. It is kind of surprising that here in Estonia this tradition has been very much alive up until the second half of the last century, having so been well recorded and acknowledged as the roots of our renowned singing culture. Based on the constant repetition of eight-syllable verses, between the lead singer and the chorus, these really archaic songs produce haunting sound- and mind-scapes, able to connect the fleeting present with the eternal circle of life. Against the stunning setting of modern Estonia, these songs still fire the imagination, weaving together eternally restless and obviously lost human spirit, with nature, with ancestors, with the One, whose name we even maybe don’t remember …

Our connection and friendship with Ireland goes back to 1988, when we were part of the cultural exchange between Estonia (breaking away from the Soviet Union) and Ireland, sending over a group of amazing traditional musicians and singers. That turned out like the cultural recognition for occupied Estonia. That’s how everybody felt it 30 years ago …

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